Thus, in the second half of the XX century there were no natural sturgeon reproduction in the Caspian Sea because of overcatch, poaching and environmental pollution.
Finally, after the USSR collapse the caviar market was divided into Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russian and Turkmenian. In the 90’s when everyone was trying to make a profit, the poaching took the place of the public industries. The private shadow channels of the black caviar export came into service: the ex-Komsomol activists, bandits and the local security and military services representatives created schemes using the «senior comrade» pattern. During 15 years, from the beginning of 1980’s until the mid 1990’s, the number of sturgeon fish in the Caspian Sea fell in 15 times. 16850 tons were caught there in 1981, and by 1996 this number decreased to 1 094 tons.
The main corporate buyers of legal black caviar are international airlines, cruise ships and restaurants.
Iran became the leader in sturgeon caviar production in the Caspian region and the whole world. Until 1970’s there were no sturgeon production because of the religion reasons. Fish that has no scale is considered unclean in Muslim countries and it is forbidden to touch or eat it. This prohibition was liberalized by the fatwa of Khomeini, spiritual leader of Iran, who allowed Muslims to catch the sturgeons and produce the black caviar for enriching of Treasury. There is only one company that produces the black caviar in Iran. The violation of monopoly is punished, including the death penalty.
Meanwhile in Russia the most part of the black caviar turnover as usual goes through the black market. According to the studies of inFOLIO Research Group in 2010 in Russia there were 19 tons of caviar produced officially. And illegally – about 225 tons. Statutory bars on sturgeon catch and sale of black caviar did not solve the poaching problem. On August 1st 2007 in Russia 10-years ban was imposed on sturgeon catch and black caviar export. Immediately there were attempts to go around it «legally» – to sell the caviar which was selected through scientific quotas. The caviar for the fish reproduction which was culled, went for sale to the distribution networks. Abuse of this opportunity led to the ban on the black caviar sale from scientific quotas as well.
At the same time demand for the black caviar is high as before and even more, after all the sturgeon population has decreased and it is getting harder to get it. Potential solution of the problem is aquacultural fish breeding.
Now the highest quality and the most expensive caviar comes from Iran, including the golden caviar Almas with a price of 10 thousands dollars for a kilogram.