Animal Advocates, Conservationists Request Amazon.com to Halt Sales of Caviar from Imperiled Sturgeon Species
Online Trade in Sturgeon Products Contributing to the Severe Decline of Species
Other contact: Lee Hall, Friends of Animals: (610) 964-0090 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New York, NY–WildEarth Guardians and Friends of Animals this
week requested that the CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, halt the sale of caviar
and other products derived from fifteen imperiled sturgeon species in his
company’s online marketplace (Read the letter here).
The organizations recently petitioned the National Marine
Fisheries Service to protect fifteen sturgeon species as “threatened” or
“endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that have suffered from severe human exploitation and loss of
spawning habitat to dams and pollution. If they are listed as
“endangered,” commerce in these fish will be unlawful for anyone subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
“The caviar trade is the primary
threat to these species, and many people buy caviar online,” said Taylor Jones,
Endangered Species Advocate at WildEarth Guardians.
“Amazon.com has a record of environmental responsibility,”
noted Jones. “We hope and expect it will extend to endangered sturgeon.”
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
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.
Sturgeon are 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. North American
demand for caviar drives both legal and illegal trade, 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
“The situation is bleak for sturgeon communities
worldwide,” said Lee Hall, Vice President of Legal Affairs for Friends of
Animals. “Some experts suggest their only chance for survival might be in
captivity. We find that future unacceptable.”
Petitioning organizations call on chefs, restaurateurs, retailers, airlines, and the public to avoid products
made from these fifteen sturgeon species, including caviar, sturgeon meat, and isinglass, a substance obtained from swim bladders that
is used as a specialty glue or in the production of some beers and wines.
# # #
Sturgeon of Western
(1) The olive-hued Acipenser
naccarii (Adriatic sturgeon) once ranged throughout the Adriatic from Italy
to Greece. Their numbers have declined from exploitation for their flesh. Currently
only about 250 individuals remain in the wild
(2) Acipenser sturio
(Baltic sturgeon) can grow to 16 feet in length. Fished aggressively for
caviar, they have been reduced to a single reproductive population in the
Garonne River in France.
The Caspian Sea,
Black Sea, and Sea of Azov: the Heart of the Caviar Trade
(3) The olive-grey Acipenser gueldenstaedtii (Russian
sturgeon; also known as Azov-Black Sea or Danube sturgeon) and (4) Acipenser nudiventris (Ship, Spiny, or
Thorn sturgeon) have been commercially exploited and caught as by-catch, and are
likely on the verge of extinction.
(5) Acipenser persicus
(Persian sturgeon) are exploited for caviar and suffer habitat loss from
dams and pollution.
(6) Populations of Acipenser
stellatus (Star sturgeon) have been devastated by legal and illegal
exploitation for meat and caviar. The Black Sea population is so depleted that
commercial catch was halted in 2006.
Sturgeon of the Aral
Sea and Tributaries
Three sturgeon species, (7) Pseudoscaphirhynchus
fedtschenkoi, (8) Pseudoscaphirhynchus hermanni, and (9) Pseudoscaphirhynchu
kaufmanni, have declined or disappeared
along with the Aral Sea, which shrunk by more than 60 percent from 1973 to 2000
and continues to shrink. Dangerous heavy metals and agricultural run-off also
threaten these populations.
Sturgeon of the Amur
River Basin, Sea of Japan, Yangtze River, and Sea of
(10) Acipenser mikadoi (Sakhalin sturgeon) can grow to 8 feet in length
and were historically common in Japanese markets;
now, only 10-30 spawning adults survive.
Increasing pollution from Russian
and Chinese agriculture is threatening (11) Acipenser schrenckii (Amur sturgeon), which have declined an estimated
Also native to China and Russia, (12) Huso dauricus (Kaluga or Great
Siberian sturgeon) are among the world’s largest freshwater fishes, exceeding 18
feet in length and one ton in weight. They are heavily poached for caviar.
(13) Acipenser baerii
(Siberian sturgeon) are fished for caviar and have lost nearly half their
spawning habitat from dam construction.
dabryanus, (Yangtze sturgeon) may only
survive due to stocking, and there is no evidence that stocked animals are
The massive (15) Acipenser sinensis (Chinese sturgeon)
were deemed a major commercial resource in the 1960s. Less than 300 wild
individuals now remain.
Guardians, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, works to
protect wildlife, wild places, and wild waters in the United States and beyond.
The organization maintains offices in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona.
Friends of Animals,
a nonprofit animal welfare organization, advocates for the interests of animals
in living free, on their own terms, and supports projects to protect at-risk
animals, including marine species. The organization maintains offices in
Connecticut, New York, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, California, and British