Conserving the Nature of America

News Release


September 2, 2005


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is suspending import and re-export of threatened beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) caviar and meat originating in the Caspian Sea basin countries, effective September 30, the agency announced today. Countries covered by the suspension include Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan.

The Service listed all beluga sturgeon populations as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (Act) effective October 21, 2004. To provide economic incentives for conservation efforts by Caspian Sea and Black Sea countries harvesting beluga sturgeon, the Service issued a special rule on March 4, 2005, setting certain conditions for exempting foreign and U.S. domestic commerce in beluga sturgeon products from the Acts permit requirements. The terms of the special rule parallel recent decisions on beluga sturgeon and other sturgeon species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a global agreement under which nearly 170 countries, including the United States, seek to regulate and monitor international wildlife trade through a system of permits.

The special rule required Caspian Sea countries wishing to continue to export beluga sturgeon caviar and meat to the United States under this exemption to submit, by September 6, 2005, copies of their laws and management plans for the protection and conservation of the species. To date, the Service has not received any of the needed information from these countries. As a result, beluga sturgeon caviar (including products containing caviar, such as cosmetics) and meat from the Caspian Sea basin are no longer eligible for the exemption provided by the special rule. The trade suspension can be lifted if Caspian Sea countries submit the information required under the special rule.

Todays suspension applies not only to commercial shipments that have been exported directly from Caspian Sea countries or re-exported through an intermediary country, but also to "personal effects" originating in Caspian Sea countries. Until today, international travelers either entering or leaving the United States could legally carry up to 250 grams of beluga sturgeon caviar for personal use without permits. However, imports of personal effects will no longer be allowed for beluga caviar from Caspian Sea countries. Todays action does not apply to caviar and meat from other sturgeon species such as osetra, sevruga and domestic white sturgeon caviar.

Domestic interstate commerce in beluga sturgeon caviar and meat from the Caspian Sea basin that was legally imported before the trade suspension will continue to be authorized under the special rule without a threatened species permit. Because of the perishable nature of sturgeon caviar and meat, this exemption expires 18 months from the date of the original CITES export permit.

The Service is still reviewing documents received from Black Sea countries that harvest beluga sturgeon and has not yet reached a decision concerning their compliance with the special rule.

For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

visit our home page at


Information contained in older news items may be outdated. These materials are made available as historical archival information only. Individual contacts have been replaced with general External Affairs office information. No other updates have been made to the information and we do not guarantee current accuracy or completeness.

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

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.