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Sturgeon Stocks Slump
The landlocked Caspian Sea is the largest inland body of water on earth. Surrounded by the Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan, the sea is home to some of the most unique ecosystems in the world.
The coastal wetlands of the Caspian basin include many shallow, saline pools, which attract a variety of bird life and biodiversity; over 400 species are unique to the Caspian. In addition, the sea’s native sturgeon is famous for the roe it produces: sturgeon from the Caspian Sea accounts for approximately 90 percent of the world’s caviar industry.
In the meantime, the Caspian Sea’s energy potential and discovery of large hydrocarbon deposits in the mid-1990s has led to an influx of foreign investments for energy development in the region.
The spotlight on the Caspian region’s oil and gas reserves also highlights the appalling state of the environment in and around the sea.
Oil and gas extraction, along with transportation and industrial production, has been the source of severe air, water, and soil pollution in the Caspian region. Systematic water sampling in different parts of the Caspian basin shows contamination from phenols, oil products and other sources. Mineral deposit exploration, particularly oil extraction and pipeline construction, have contributed to the pollution of about 30,000 hectares of land.
Pollution from oil fields and refineries continues at a high rate due to employment of outdated technology, malfunctioning equipment, and/or simple human disregard. However, even normal processes of oil and gas extraction have environmental side effects. Loud sounds used in seismic surveys in oil and gas exploration can have a range of negative effects on living creatures, particularly fish. The drilling of offshore exploratory wells involves the introduction of various materials into the marine environment, including such non-toxic materials as water-based drilling mud and rock cuttings but also potentially toxic drilling fluids. Discharges from drilling rigs--accidental or otherwise--can include sewage and wastewater from crew facilities as well as deck wash, which can include lubricants such as greases, hydraulic fluids, cement slurry, drill testing fluids, and incidental fuels, reported Persian daily Khorasan.
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Most of the world's caviar comes from the Caspian sturgeon.
Excessive Fishing
The Caspian Sea provides about 90 percent of the world’s caviar. However, lack of an international agreement for safeguarding the sea’s environment has led to over fishing and poaching of sturgeon, the fish whose roe is used to make the delicacy, resulting in dwindling fish stocks.
Environmentalists have warned that beluga poaching, the largest and rarest of the sturgeon, is pushing the species into extinction. Iranian officials have reported a steady drop in caviar production, one of their major non-oil exports, blaming poaching and oil prospecting.
Legal trade in the black fish eggs from the Caspian is estimated to be worth $100 million per year, but the illegal catch in the four former Soviet republics is believed to be 10 to 12 times higher.
In the spring of 2001, the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned exports of caviar from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan. The ban led to a higher price for beluga caviar, which in turn gave further incentive to poachers. Despite opposition from environmentalists, in March 2002 CITES lifted the export ban on the former Soviet republics, citing improved management of their sturgeon stocks.

Expensive Product
Sturgeon is the principal source of one of the world’s most expensive and sought-after luxury food items -- caviar.
Caviar is the eggs taken from female sturgeon found in coastal waters, rivers and lakes of the Northern Hemisphere. Most of the world’s caviar comes from the Caspian sturgeon.
Caspian sturgeon is presently an endangered species due to excessive fishing, habitat destruction, and pollution. This is fueled largely by the big market for Caspian caviar.
The global caviar market has placed a premium on sturgeon prompting excessive and illegal fishing or poaching around the world.A number of sturgeon producing countries, particularly Russia, have experienced severe political and economic upheavals in recent years, and as a result black markets are flourishing in the absence of effective enforcement.
Sturgeon reproduction is lesser over a lifetime than other fish that reproduce at an earlier age and more frequently.
So, while it’s easy to fish sturgeon immoderately, it is difficult for it to recover to a healthy level, particularly when large-scale fishing continues.
Dam construction and water pollution on sturgeon spawning rivers have seriously hampered their ability to reproduce in the wild.
All 27 species of sturgeon and paddlefish, including the Caspian Sea species, are listed under CITES. As a result, trade in the three Caspian Sea species is subject to labeling and reporting requirements. While important, these requirements are not sufficient to protect and restore beluga sturgeon, which is in danger of extinction.
Field experts recommend a halt to international trade in beluga caviar and more aggressive conservation measures to protect all Caspian Sea sturgeon.
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The Caspian sturgeon is an endangered species due to excessive fishing, habitat destruction and pollution.
Falling Catch
The Iranian fishery organization, which operates in the southern part of the Caspian Sea, is generally thought to be well-managed.
About two-thirds of Iran’s caviar production is osetra, most of which comes from a species of sturgeon known as Persian sturgeon which is native to the southern Caspian Sea. Only about 3 percent of the Iranian catch is beluga sturgeon.
In addition to the United States, the European Union and Japan are major importers of Caspian caviar. There is also a very large domestic market for Caspian caviar in Russia.
Fishermen on the windswept beach at Bandar-e Anzali fear illegal fishing and oil pollution mean they could be the last to scour the Caspian for its &#8220black gold.“ Most fishermen spend their life in pursuit of mighty “living fossils“ that have existed for 250 million years. They also agree with environmentalists whose statistics say sturgeon stocks have slumped 90 percent since the late 1970s.
Every year the catch falls and their fear is that soon there will be nothing left to fish. While small quantities of caviar are produced by other countries such as Canada, China, Romania, Turkey and the USA, Iran and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are the primary sources of caviar on the international market. In addition, some exporting countries may not always be exporting real caviar.
Illicit trading remains a major method of selling caviar from sturgeon poached in the Caspian Sea basin. Caviar is illegally exported from Russia, or may be repacked and falsely labeled in Eastern Europe before appearing on European retail markets. Illegal trade in caviar from Iran is rare according to government officials, but smuggling of caviar from Iran into Dubai appears to be a common route.
Bulk quantities of caviar are said to be transferred from Bandar-e Anzali in the Caspian Sea to Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf, where small boats then transport the invaluable commodity to Dubai. In CIS countries, Caspian caviar produced from poached sturgeon is said to be smuggled aboard cargo ships visiting French, Belgian, Danish or German harbors.
More often, particularly in the case of CIS states, illicit traders simply use false documents to mask the poached origin of their product or its unauthorized preparation and packing.

Major Importers
For example, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Greenland apparently do not distinguish between the roe of sturgeons and that of other fish. All of these countries show inconsistent prices in their statistics on &#8220caviar&#8220 trade.<br> In addition, many countries cited as the source of caviar imports may simply be re-exporting caviar imported from Iran and the CIS. The major import markets for caviar from Iran and the CIS are the European Union (EU), Japan, the USA and Switzerland. These markets imported annual averages of 200 tons, 100 tons, 70 tons and 65 tons, respectively, between 1988 and 1994. <br> During this period, the EU imported roughly half of all Caspian caviar produced but exported approximately 24 percent of this amount to other countries. Among EU countries, Germany was the main importer (85 tons per year), but it re-exported approximately 45 per cent of its imports to other European countries and the USA. France, where pressed caviar can retail for up to $600 per kilo, is the largest EU caviar consumer with 80 tons imported annually and 60 tons consumed by its domestic market.<br> The UK (20 tons per year) and Belgium (20 tons per year) follow Germany and France as major importers of Caspian caviar. <br> Japan accounted for about 16 per cent of all Caspian caviar exports from 1991 to 1994, importing 45 to 57 tons per year. <br> It imported more caviar from the CIS than from Iran during this period. The US receives 70 percent of its caviar imports from Russia. While the US has a commercial embargo on trade with Iran, some 500 kilos of Iranian caviar have entered the USA since 1991 via imports from France, Switzerland and more recently Dubai. <br> Dubai is emerging as a re-exporter of Caspian caviar. Switzerland serves as a center for caviar imports and exports within the European continent and consistently consumes eight tons of caviar on its domestic market annually. <br> <br> Illegal Trade <br> Until 1991, two countries the former Soviet Union and Iran virtually controlled the caviar market, investing heavily in controlling and maintaining fish stocks.<br> This made it easy to trace the source of any given shipment of caviar. With the demise of the USSR, the system collapsed, and many entrepreneurs dealing in &#8220black gold&#8220 sprang up to replace the state-owned companies. The Caspian once accounted for 95 percent of world caviar, although this percentage is now closer to 90 percent. <br> Official catch levels have fallen from a peak of about 30,000 tons in the late 1970s to less than one-tenth that figure in the late 1990s. Reduced river flow, the destruction of spawning sites, corruption, poaching, organized crime and illicit trade, have all contributed to the decline. <br> One result is that the illegal catch in four of the former Soviet Republics is now 10 or 12 times higher than the legal take. The legal caviar trade is estimated to be worth some $100 million annually. <br> Because prices of illegal caviar vary widely from country to country, it is difficult to estimate the value of illegal trade, but it is clearly enormous. Producer countries are now carrying out scientific assessments of sturgeon population levels (with support from FAO) to ensure that catch and export quotas are scientifically valid, strengthening their controls over domestic trade in sturgeon, and improving their enforcement, licensing, identification, labeling and hatchery production and control systems. All littoral governments should join hands to protect the Caspian&#8217s &#8220black gold&#8220 or else this costly delicacy will soon perish into history.<br> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <table border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0> <tr> <td width=20 align=right valign=middle> <a href="focus.htm#top"> <img src="../../../logo/UpArr.gif" border=0 align=left width=10 height=10 vspace=0 hspace=0 alt=""> </a> </td> <td align=center width=530> <hr width="80%"> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> <tr> <td align=left valign=top> <!-- Begin FocusCol1 --> <a name="FocusCol1"></a> <table border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0> <tr> <td align=left valign=top> <img src="../../../logo/FocusCol1.gif" alt="FocusCol1" width=220 height=30 vspace=0 hspace=0 align=left> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <table cellpadding=1 cellspacing=0 border=0 bgcolor=red> <tr> <td> <table bgcolor="#FFF8DC" border=0 width="100%" cellspacing=10 cellpadding=0> <tr> <td align=left> <a name="48264"></a> <div class=title4> Taxation And Economy <br> </div> <div class=subtitle4> By Neda Mirbabaei<br> </div> <div class=detail4> Our everyday lives are greatly influenced by macro-economic indices and activities. White-collar and blue-collar employees as well as those with stable income worry about price hikes almost on a daily basis. <br> Livelihoods depend largely on the conditions of macro-economic activities throughout the society. Fiscal year budgets also rely on macro-economic indices because they could pave the ground for growth and development or recession and underdevelopment. In fact the public relies heavily on fiscal year budgets for security, social justice and social welfare. Therefore, every government is bound to make all effort to provide and secure these basic needs by means of proper deployment of resources. <br> The 2005-06 budget bill was devised and ratified for such a purpose. However, what really bothers many economic experts is that some of its figures are totally unrealistic. For instance, 25,000 billion rials of income has been added from unidentified revenues and any delay or failure to receive that amount could create budget deficits. <br> In the next year&#8217s budget bill as per the government revenues and expenditures there is a specific deficit of around 98,328 billion rials as well. If revenues from tax and non-oil exports as per the bill were to be at around 207,157 billion rials with government expenditures at 368,486 billion rials, there would be 98,328 billion rials in deficit some 27 percent. <br> In many countries most of the government income comes from taxations but in Iran, thanks to hefty oil revenues, the taxation system has lost its true role in the economy. The amount of tax revenues compared to the amount of capital is insignificant and also when compared to the amount of cash spent to control and run the economy. This huge difference between the amount of tax and capital revenues is largely caused by tax evasion, tax exemption and black market. <br> Thus the average national income loss calculated at 5 percent for the past 20 years is still low. <br> The amount of tax revenues in the 2005-06 fiscal year budget stands at 46.6 percent -- 25 percent of income share in the government budget. In practice this has an ineffective role on general budgets compared to other countries and proves the ineffectiveness of the taxation system in Iran. <br> Improvement in the taxation system could help augment the role of tax revenues as an important budget source. Careful expert attention to statistics and information received on economic growth or recession is of paramount importance because it is not an easy task to have an eight-percent growth while having a two-digit inflation rate. Further attention needs to be given to several economic policies as well in order to boost the economy. But raising income taxes alone is not and cannot be the best solution. Any economic growth and development has to be backed and justified by scientific and academic study and research. <br> </div> <br> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> <!-- End FocusCol1 --> </td> </tr> <tr> <td valign=middle> <table border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0> <tr> <td align=left valign=middle width=20> <a href="focus.htm#top"> <img src="../../../logo/UpArr.gif" border=0 align=left width=10 height=10 vspace=0 hspace=0 alt=""> </a> </td> <td align=center width=530> <hr width="80%"> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <!-- Begin Bottom TOC --> <table border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0 width="100%"> <tr> <td> <hr width="100%"> </td> </tr> <tr> <td align=center> <div class=htoc> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/index.htm">Front Page</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/national.htm">National</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/economy.htm">Domestic Economy</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/science.htm">Science</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/panorama.htm">Panorama</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/focus.htm">Economic Focus</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/dotcoms.htm">Dot Coms</a> | <br> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/energy.htm">Global Energy</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/politic.htm">World Politics</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/sports.htm">Sports</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/ieconomy.htm">International Economy</a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/art.htm">Arts & Culture</a> | <br> </div> </td> </tr> <tr> <td align=center> <table border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=0> <tr> <td> <hr width="100%"> </td> </tr> <tr> <td align=center> <div class=htoc> | <a class=htoc href="../../../1383/2228/html/index.htm#Identification"> Identification </a> | <a class=htoc href="../../../archive.htm"> Archive </a> | </div> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> <!-- End Bottom TOC --> </td> </tr> <tr> <td> <!-- Begin Bottom --> <hr width="100%"> <table border=0 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=1 width="100%"> <tr> <td align=left valign=top width="50%"> <div class=footer> Copyright 2004, Iran Daily Newspaper <br> </div> </td> <td align=right valign=top width="50%"> <div class=footer> Contact us: <a href="#" ONCLICK='window.open("../../../feedback.htm","popup","width=500,height=500,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,resizable=no,scrollbars=yes,status=no,toolbar=no");return false'>iran-daily@iran-daily.com</a><br> </div> </td> </tr> </table> <!-- End Bottom --> </td> </tr> </table> </body> </html>