2005_10_29_beluga.jpgRoughly 18 months. That's how much time you have if you want to get a legal taste of Beluga Caviar in the United States. Effective yesterday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended its ban of beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea (instituted in September) to include the Black Sea basin as well, effectively banning the black stuff.

Why 18 months? Because that's how long the currently imported stock is expected to last.

But why the ban? Because in the post-Soviet era beluga sturgeon fishing has apparently gone out of control thanks to organized crime and the fish is now nearing extinction. The hope is that the ban will reduce beluga fishing trade and encourage better conservation (the U.S. currently consumes about 60% of the world's caviar). Until then, however, alternatives like the caviar from white sturgeon farm-raised in California (supposedly "wonderful") are being pushed. So in the meantime caviar aficionados had better stock up.

On a conservation note, having never been able to afford the stuff ourselves (not really wanting to either... fish eggs and all), three cheers for the Fish and Wildlife Service. Pushing this kind of ban on a luxury item through can't be easy, but is most probably really good for all parties in the long run.

Photograph of Beluga Caviar from epicurious.