November 20, 2006

Caviar company convicted of illegal import of endangered Caspian Sea sturgeon eggs

BRAMPTON, ONT-Caviar Centre, a leading caviar importing and wholesale company, has been convicted of importing sturgeon caviar into Canada from Turkey without a permit, in contravention of Canada's Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). The firm was fined $3,000 and ordered to forfeit the 126 kilograms of seized caviar with a retail value estimated at $305,000. Caviar is produced using the eggs of highly endangered sturgeon. The eggs can be obtained only by killing mature females during the prime of their breeding lives. Sturgeon eggs (caviar) are listed under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and are therefore protected (along with all sturgeon and their parts) under WAPPRIITA, the legislative vehicle by which Canada meets its obligations under CITES. The caviar in question was alleged to have come from the Caspian Sea region where the high level of black market activity, together with lax enforcement of endangered species legislation following the breakup of the former Soviet Union, have brought all sturgeon close to extinction. The convicted company attempted to import caviar using falsified CITES permits, which are required to legally import and export endangered species into or out of Canada. Similar charges against Caviar Centre owner and president Mark Omidi, of Richmond Hill, Ontario were withdrawn following conviction of the company. The forfeited caviar will be destroyed due to its age, as its human consumption in any manner would likely constitute a health hazard.

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