Th is joint presentation aims at an intensified dialogue between farmers and conservationists about the shortcomings of the current labelling and enforcement approach for sturgeon products and best strategies to facilitate and improve the traceability of legal caviar.
As a result of the legal protection of wild sturgeons in trade , a massive increased production of sturgeon products from aquaculture was observed over the past 20 years, providing the only legal source for sturgeon products in trade. Nevertheless , wild sturgeons are still poached, and their meat and caviar enter the market illegally and mostly unnoticed. To safeguard the last surviving sturgeon stocks as well as to support the legal ly operating industry, effective and reliable traceability systems throughout the trade chain are essential. However, current CITES regulations are not sufficient or adequately enforced to detect and stop illegal trade.
An overview of the current gaps in the traceability chain (no marking of individuals, no documentation of transported fish, no labelling on domestic markets, labelling for international trade easy to falsify, no authenticity controls) will be presented.
To support enforcement activities, several experimental approaches are currently available and in continuous development, which include different methods of genetic analysis for the identification of species and interspecific hybrids, analysis of fatty acids for the distinction of animals from aquaculture or from natural environment and isotopic analysis for the geographical traceability of the samples. All these methods have considerable application potential but also have limits and margins of uncertainty which will be discussed in a very general way.
The adoption of strategies that allow efficient traceability and transparency of legal caviar would help limit illicit activities, by limiting the possibilities of using aquaculture to greenwash poaching products. In this perspective, we want to draw attention to two possible strategies that could be adopted to maximize traceability efficiency, facilitate commercial controls and reduce the associated costs.
Genetic references sample storage : As a possible way to minimize any kind of technical ambiguity we would like to explore the possibility of establishing tissue banks for temporary storage of tissue samples from each animal used for caviar production. These banks should be centralized at the national level and supervised by a public authority. Each tissue can be easily collected during caviar processing and would be identified by a code also reported on the boxes of caviar along any repackaging. This would allow the genetic analysis upon request, only of those tissues with the code corresponding to the caviar to be checked. The analyzes would be very simple as it would be a matter of confirming the genetic identity. The approach, however, could be subject to various fraudulent circumvention possibilities which should be the subject of collective discussion to identify the most effective control solutions.
Blockchain database approach through genetic characterization : The second approach is also based upon the genetic analysis of individual profiles of fish based upon SNPs panels, allowing individual assignment of fish to a lineage of broodstock maintained at a farm. The difference to the previous approach is the fact that the test is performed upon identification of sex of an individual, when the fish is marked with an individual code (PIT) that is stored in a blockchain database and that is used to document movements of the fish between farms , providing a record of the performance/location of the fish and is passed on to the products that derive from the individual. The blockchain databa se is stored centrally, can be used on three different levels of detail: by the farmers to follow up on the stock development, as a documentation for CITES purposes, as well as and for consumer information upon rearing conditions.
The applicability of the methods, along with improved approaches for labelling as a prerequisite for increased consumer safety and enforcement agency information are to be discussed and the advantages for the caviar trade are to be identified in a discussion round, aiming at the identification of preferences and concerns by the industry.