Along the coast of Dagestan, a small republic in southern Russia, frontier guards are busy chasing caviar smugglers. With caviar fetching record prices on Western markets, sturgeon stocks in the Caspian Sea have dropped dramatically.
Most of the world's sturgeon population lives in the Caspian Sea but their numbers have fallen 40 times over the last 15 years, and the smuggling is threatening the species.
One fish can contain up to 10 kg of caviar, worth 50,000 euros in a Parisian shop. But the smugglers of Dagestan only see a very small amount of the profits made from trafficking.
On improvised markets in the coast's villages, the banned fish is hidden in plastic bags and costs 5.50 euros per kilo.
The price of the caviar itself is negotiated out of sight around the back of the buildings. One can costs about 300 euros. That's 4000 euros less than in any european capital, but a small fortune for the fishermen from Dagestan.
At that price, the smugglers are willing to take risks and play cat and mouse with the touchy and sometimes threatening frontier guards.
Date created : 2008-07-17