Reputedly the finest form of caviar, beluga, is back on the table this year, after five key source countries agreed on export quotas for the delicacy.

Trade in beluga caviar was halted last year as countries failed to agree on quotas, in line with a 2002 CITES agreement.

But during a meeting in Tehran, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan agreed on the latest quotas which would run until February 28, 2011.

The new beluga quotas are: zero for Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, 800 kg for Iran, 1,500 kg for Kazakhstan and 700 kg for Russia.

As caviar stocks declined through the 1990s, member states of CITES had listed all sturgeon species on its Appendix II, thereby requiring government approval for trade in these products.

A temporary ban on wild caviar was imposed in 2001 due to a depletion of stocks amid high levels of poaching and illegal trade in the Caspian Sea.

This was later lifted and in 2002, countries sharing a stock of sturgeons automatically have zero quotas unless they reach a consensus on a sustainable level of exports.

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