The Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP) has stated that an amendment to US legislation banning the import of EU caviar to the US market is a serious concern, as the US is a significant market for caviar, accounting for 23% of EU caviar exports.
All sturgeon species fall under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which renders trade of these species and their derivatives (such as caviar) highly regulated, the objective being to protect the wild specimens of these species in the natural environment.
The current international trade in sturgeon and sturgeon caviar is only carrried out with farmed specimens raised in captivity.
However, FEAP learned that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) intends to add two amendments to its Endangered Species Act legislation (ESA)3 aiming to ban the trade and the presence of the five European species of sturgeons.
‘This modification of the legislation is based on the state of the wild stocks of these species but fails to take into account the existence of farmed specimens that are perfectly traceable and distinguishable from wild sturgeons,’ said Benoît Thomassen, chair of the FEAP Sturgeon Commission.
‘Moreover, it also negates all the efforts undertaken by numerous sturgeon farmers in Europe, and in the world, that contribute to efforts to reintroduce these species in the wild, by maintaining broodstock and rearing fingerlings for restocking in the natural environment.’
He commented that if these amendments are finally signed, their inaccurate interpretation of the situation will completely block the trade of EU caviar by preventing the many European producers from exporting to the United States, besides putting an end to the US national production of these species.
According to FEAP, besides the direct consequences of this ban, all caviar currently sold on the US market today, and which will not be able to be sold tomorrow, will be driven to the EU market, which is the main world market. This will therefore put enormous pressure on the caviar supply, adding to that of Chinese caviar (representing 66% of the caviar sold in the US market), already arriving at very low prices in the EU market, and therefore further reducing prices.
‘If this is to materialise, it would have huge negative consequences for European caviar producers, and also for the entire caviar market,’ Benoît Thomassen said, adding that these amendments, which FEAP believes go against bilateral trade agreements between the EU and the United States, are based on a wrong principle, as banning those products from the referred sturgeon species will not provide any improvement to natural wild stocks as they originate from aquaculture.
The FEAP has approached the European Commission to make it aware of the situation, besides sharing the concerns with the authorities in the Member States, and encouraging them to react swiftly towards the US authorities to influence the amendment process and persuade them to make a distinction between wild and farmed sturgeons and their caviar.
‘The very survival of an entire EU sector depends on it,’ Benoît Thomassen said.
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