Scott Flaherty, California and Nevada Regional Office, 916-978-6156
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants international travelers to be aware of recent changes to federal regulations that reduces from 250 to 125 grams the quantity of caviar they may carry into or out of the country as a personal effect (i.e., without a permit).
Sturgeon and paddlefish are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is an international agreement that regulates global trade in many species of wildlife and plants through a system of permits to ensure that trade is legal and does not threaten their survival. All sturgeons and paddlefish, the fish whose eggs are processed into caviar, have been protected under CITES since 1998. The measure became effective on September 15, 2008.
"The Service's revised regulations help those individuals and businesses legally import sturgeon caviar for personal and commercial use," said H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "These regulations will help the Service implement the management, scientific, and enforcement provisions of CITES -- and that will help the sturgeons."
The reduction in the amount of caviar that can be transported under CITES personal effects provisions was adopted at the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in 2007. A change in the quota year for export of caviar from the Caspian Sea, Black Sea and Amur River basins agreed to at the meeting last year is also incorporated into the new U.S. regulations. The change to these regulations will bring U.S. rules into conformity with current CITES provisions and help promote conservation of these species.
Travelers in possession of more than 125 grams (about 4.4 ounces) of caviar are subject to seizure of their entire supply of caviar. In addition to seizure of their caviar, the Endangered Species Act allows a maximum fine of up to $100,000 for this type of violation.
Permit requirements for commercial shipments of caviar and caviar in excess of 125g for personal use are not impacted by the new regulations. All commercial shipments of caviar in international trade must be accompanied by CITES permits. Caviar in excess of 125g transported by international travelers for personal use also requires CITES permits.
The Service continues to promote the conservation of sturgeons and paddlefish worldwide through education, scientific partnerships and resource management. Travelers in California with questions about the new policy can contact the Service's duty wildlife inspector at 310-328-6307 extension 204. Information about federal wildlife protection laws is available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/le.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen,visit www.fws.gov