It is estimated that for every sturgeon caught by licensed fishermen, 5 to 12 are fished by poachers and subsequently significant amounts are illegally traded worldwide. The EU is traditionally one of the main markets for caviar. An EC Regulation adopted on 4 May 2006 now requires that all caviar containers entering or leaving the EU bear a label specifying the source and the year of harvest. International commercial trade is prohibited by CITES for two species of sturgeons and has to be regulated by governments through a permit system for all other sturgeon species.
In the face of serious declines in sturgeon populations, the European Commission hosted at the end of June 2006 the first ever meeting bringing together all the relevant stakeholders - including the Caspian States, the main trading and consumer countries and the secretariat of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) - to discuss ways of combating illegal trade in caviar (sturgeon eggs).