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    Azerbaijan likely to back 5-year sturgeon-catching ban

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    Azerbaijan is ready to back Russia's proposal for a temporary ban on catching caviar-producing sturgeon for all Caspian littoral states, a government advisor said.

    BAKU, March 29 (RIA Novosti) - Azerbaijan is ready to back Russia's proposal for a temporary ban on catching caviar-producing sturgeon for all Caspian littoral states, a government advisor said.

    The head of Russia's State Fisheries Committee proposed on Thursday a five-year moratorium to protect the declining sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea. The five countries on the sea are Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran.

    Tariel Mamedli, an advisor at the aquatic bioresources department of Azerbaijan's Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry told RIA Novosti that if Russian fisheries chief Andrei Krainy "submits this proposal officially to the Commission on Caspian Aquatic Bioresources of the Caspial littoral states, then we will consider it."

    Overfishing has reduced the sturgeon population in the Caspian forty-fold in the past 15 years.

    The advisor said Azerbaijan has tried to persuade Caspian countries to sign up to measures to save endangered fish on several occasions in the past, but its efforts have repeatedly been blocked.

    He also said a five-year moratorium on sturgeon catching would be far too short.

    "Specialists would just laugh at this. It would have to be at least 10 years, because sturgeon take 8-12 years to mature."

    He said the lack of legal agreements on the Caspian Sea since the breakup of the Soviet Union is at the heart of the problem.

    "Each country guards its own ten-mile shore zone, and the rest of the open sea is ownerless," giving fish-catchers complete freedom, he said.

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