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    Russia will pass law on sturgeon and caviar sales in 2005

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    MOSCOW, July 8 (RIA Novosti) - The head of the Federal Fishery Committee said a law on government control over the sales of sturgeon and caviar could be passed before the end of 2005.

    "We hope to have the law before the end of the year. The bill is almost complete." Stanislav Ilyasov told a RIA Novosti news conference.

    Ilyasov said Russia's 2004 quota for black caviar export had been 30 metric tons. "However, caviar production was disrupted, as Russia had not fulfilled its international obligations. We only sold about 20 tons of caviar," Ilyasov said.

    "The quota determined by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna for this year is 28 metric tons," Ilyasov said. "And we will meet the target."

    About 70% of the fish caught in Russia's economic zone is sold overseas illegally, without any sort of customs control, and then imported back to the country, Ilyasov told journalists.

    "By returning 50% of illegally sold fish to Russia, we will be able to cut domestic prices on the product by two times," Ilyasov said.

    Ilyasov said the committee needed the right to issue fishing permits in Russia back. "Today, the permits are issued by the agriculture agency. It is one body exercising control and issuing permissions, which is not correct," Ilyasov said.

    Russian-produced caviar accounts for 10% of the world caviar market today, whereas in 1990, Russian caviar accounted for 70% of the market. At the moment, Iran produces 87% of the caviar market's supply. A state monopoly on caviar production and sales is in effect in the country.

    Iran is the only Caspian Sea country that uses draconian measures to combat poaching. Police open fire at any boat near a spawning area in the fishing season. Iran has continuously increased its sturgeon catches and exports to world markets.

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