The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) established its regulation on international trade on all sturgeon species in 1998, as the unsustainable exploitation and illegal trade of these populations in the wild had caused great concern. The seal started out in 21 countries and currently 183 countries are part of it.
The management and control systems which existed in the times of the old Soviet Union on the Caspian sea, where the majority of caviar in the world was produced, ended up in overexploitation, not giving time to the species to regenerate, which is why sturgeon became one of the list of animals in danger of extinction.
The CITES certification searches to re-establish the populations of species for its conservation, long term preservation and sustainable management. It guarantees the traceability of all the products elaborated with caviar and its derivatives.
In 2000, a universal labelling system was designed to identify legal caviar on the market. Often, it is sold as Beluga, Iranian or Russian caviar when in fact it is re-packaged Chinese caviar.
To detect fraud, it is important to read the CITES line which is normally found on the back label of the packaging, where the origin and traceability of the product is certified.
The line of code is structured in the following way: XXX/C/ZZ/year/health registration…, where:
Code of the species the sturgeon originates from. It is only Beluga if the first section is exclusively HUS/…; Naccarii if it is NAC/…; and Osetra if it is GUE/…
‘C’ is the code which tells us that the caviar comes from aquaculture.
This important code gives the geographic origin of the caviar, so that if it says XXX/C/RU it is produced in Russia; if it says XXX/C/CN in China, even if they want to pass it off for European, Russian or Iranian. If it says /ES/, we know it is Spanish.