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Testing the Effectiveness of an International Conservation Agreement: Marketplace Forensics and CITES Caviar Trade Regulation
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Author: Phaedra Doukakis et al.

by Phaedra Doukakis, Ellen K. Pikitch, Anna Rothschild, Rob DeSalle, George Amato, Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis


The international wildlife trade is a key threat to biodiversity. Temporal genetic marketplace monitoring can determine if wildlife trade regulation efforts such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are succeeding. Protected under CITES effective 1997, sturgeons and paddlefishes, the producers of black caviar, are flagship CITES species.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We test whether CITES has limited the amount of fraudulent black caviar reaching the marketplace. Using mitochondrial DNA-based methods, we compare mislabeling in caviar and meat purchased in the New York City area pre and post CITES listing. Our recent sampling of this market reveals a decrease in mislabeled caviar (2006–2008; 10%; n?=?90) compared to pre-CITES implementation (1995–1996; 19%; n?=?95). Mislabeled caviar was found only in online purchase (n?=?49 online/41 retail).


Stricter controls on importing and exporting as per CITES policies may be having a positive conservation effect by limiting the amount of fraudulent caviar reaching the marketplace. Sturgeons and paddlefishes remain a conservation priority, however, due to continued overfishing and habitat degradation. Other marine and aquatic species stand to benefit from the international trade regulation that can result from CITES listing.