WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government on Friday banned imports of beluga caviar and the sturgeon that produces the expensive eggs originating from the Black Sea basin.
Imports of beluga sturgeon, both its meat and eggs, will no longer be allowed from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, and Ukraine, the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The ban is in addition to the agency's announcement on Sept. 30 that it was suspending all trade in the beluga sturgeon's caviar and meat from the Caspian Sea.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton said the bans would continue ``until there is significant progress'' with conservation programs in the Caspian and Black Sea regions.
``That's the key to the ultimate recovery of this threatened species,'' she said. ``We're hopeful that this action will bring renewed attention to the plight of the beluga sturgeon, and that it will encourage the range countries to work to ensure its conservation.''
A year ago, Fish and Wildlife officials listed all beluga sturgeon populations as ``threatened'' under the Endangered Species Act, a lesser category than ``endangered.'' The decisions came in response to a December 2000 petition from a U.S.-based environmental coalition, Caviar Emptor.
Most of the world's beluga caviar is imported by the United States, usually originating from the Caspian and Black seas. Trade in beluga caviar is overseen by the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, based in Geneva, Switzerland.