A United Nations panel has lifted a ban on exports of most types of Caspian caviar, clearing the way for Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Iran to sell limited amounts of the valued delicacy in world markets.
The move by the U.N.-sponsored conservation body CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), reverses a ruling a year ago in which the body refused to approve export quotas.
In the 2006 ruling, the U.N. panel said quotas proposed by caviar-provider countries did not reflect a drop in sturgeon stock, or make allowance for illegal Caspian fishing that depleted sturgeon numbers.
Officials say the 2007 quotas are 15 percent lower than 2005, reflecting a continuing sturgeon decline.
The new ruling does not cover the rare and highly-coveted beluga sturgeon, because officials say several countries failed to supply sufficient information, but a decision is expected later this year.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.