ZDF’s “Planet e”: The Caviar Connection in Russia

© Ralf Gemecke

With strict laws, Russia is trying to save the last wild sturgeons in the Volga River and the Caspian Sea. But research conducted by “Planet e” and WWF shows that illegal trade continues: Too much money can be earned with the valuable fish eggs. If you are a German speaker, you can watch the report here. It features WWF’s sturgeon conservation expert Jutta Jahrl.

Below is a quick summary of ZDF’s findings.

“Planet e” investigators met poachers in the Volga Delta, dubious traders in Astrakhan and Moscow, but also many legitimate breeders and dedicated conservationists.What they found was that fish eggs from wild sturgeons are still a good source of income. This is especially so since customers often specifically ask for poached caviar.

Environmental organizations and even the Russian Ministry of Environment estimate that up to 80 per cent of Russia’s traded caviar comes from illegal sources. The problem is that the breeding of sturgeons in aquaculture farms is complicated and therefore very expensive, while wild caviar is often cheaper. Moreover, the belief that caviar from wild sturgeons tastes better persists. This is a legend that German traders and aquaculture farms have been trying to fight for years.

Sturgeonscan probably only be saved if customers start to consume only caviar from aquaculture. The great sturgeons survived on Earth for 250 million years, but these living dinosaurs could be wiped out by men in a very short period of time.

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