Caviar (marketed by species name or as Kaluga, Osetra, Sevruga or Karaburun caviar) from some of the fifteen petitioned sturgeon species is currently sold through Amazon.com by a number of vendors. Many of these products are marketed as farm-raised or environmentally friendly. But sturgeon farming is replacing the planet’s natural populations of sturgeon with a commodified or captive population. Moreover, sturgeon farming makes it possible to illegally kill free-living sturgeon and pass the parts off as farm-raised. The sturgeon market also creates an incentive to catch free-living, mature fish as breeding stock.
Dear Jeff Bezos:
Caviar sales are wiping out sturgeon. We are writing to inform you that our organizations have petitioned the U.S. government to add 15 species of sturgeon to the endangered species list, and to request that Amazon.com stop selling caviar and other products derived from these fish.
Sturgeon, among the oldest families of fish to grace our planet, are also described by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as the most threatened group of animals on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
In 2004, Beluga sturgeon, whose caviar is a popular and expensive “delicacy,” were listed a “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Five populations of Atlantic sturgeon will be added to the list as “endangered” on 6 April 2012. This means the U.S. Secretary of Commerce deems the largest native fishes in the Chesapeake Bay to be on the verge of extinction. This month, WildEarth Guardians and Friends of Animals petitioned the U.S. government to add 15 more sturgeon species to the endangered species list.
If they are listed as “endangered,” which is likely due to their extremely small and diminishing populations, commerce in these fish will be unlawful for anyone subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
Global threats to sturgeon include dams, agricultural pollution and household waste, and natural gas and oil extraction and development. The central Caspian Sea, home to many of the petitioned species, is even threatened by radioactive contamination from a nuclear reactor. But the biggest threat to sturgeon is international exploitation for their body parts and roe.
North American demand drives both legal and illegal trade in caviar, as shoppers’ demand far exceeds the supply. Trade in sturgeon caviar in Russia and Iran is ridden with crime. Some caviar traders circumvent the law by using false species labels, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) last year expressed pessimism about efforts to control caviar smuggling. Although sturgeon have persisted on Earth for 200 million years, they may not survive the 21st century. To ensure their survival, we must stop viewing these fish as a commodity and begin protecting them.
Caviar (marketed by species name or as Kaluga, Osetra, Sevruga or Karaburun caviar) as well as smoked meat from some of the fifteen petitioned sturgeon species is currently sold through Amazon.com by Alma Gourmet; Alpicina; Bemka; Caviar & Caviar; Caviar Express; For the Gourmet; Gourmet Food Source; Gourmet Food Store; Little Pearl; Marky's; Mozart Caviar; Olma; Paramount Caviar; Russian Caviar; Taste Specialty Foods; and Viking’s Delight, among
We are aware that many of these products are marketed as farm-raised. Some are even touted as environmentally friendly: caviar from Acipenser naccarii sold by Delitaliana Food Products on Amazon.com is marked as “certified eco-friendly farmed.”
But sturgeon farming is replacing the planet’s natural population of sturgeon with a commodified
or captive population. Moreover, sturgeon farming makes it possible to illegally kill free-living sturgeon and pass the parts off as farm-raised. The sturgeon market also creates an incentive to catch free-living, mature fish as breeding stock. Finally, even if members of a species listed as
“endangered” are farm-raised, trade in their parts without a permit would still be illegal.
Amazon.com would do right by the environment and save itself from possible prosecution by simply banning the sale of products derived from any of these 15 species now.
Online commerce supports the market for sturgeon, and imperils them. The situation is so bleak for sturgeon communities worldwide that some experts suggest their only chance for survival might be in captivity. We find that future unacceptable, and we believe you do too. Amazon.com
has a key role in protecting these 15 critically endangered fish. We hope Amazon.com will discontinue sales of caviar and other products from imperiled sturgeons. Please assure us that Amazon.com will do so.