Caviar is a much sort after delicacy and at current market prices a kilogramme of caviar can fetch $8,000.
|The Caspian sturgeon could be under |
threat if the smuggling continues
But in the caviar breeding grounds of the Caspian Sea, the authorities are battling to stop smugglers from stealing sturgeon, the fish from which caviar typically comes, before they get to market.
Fishing boats on the Caspian can now often be seen with a Kazakh soldier on deck.
Authorities in Kazakhstan are refusing to bow to pressure from pirates who are trying to steal sturgeon from boats plying the world's largest lake.
The sturgeon is sort after by thieves using fast and modern speed boats because the giant fish provides caviar, processed, salted eggs served as an expensive hors d'oeuvres the world over.
Black caviar is roe from sturgeon fished from the Caspian Sea by nations such as Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan.
Kazakh border guards patrol the Caspian to stop the sturgeon from being snatched by pirates they say come mainly from Russia.
General Yelmis Gana Beergomov, a senior Kazakh border guard, says: "The danger comes from the Dagestan republic. Most of the time these smugglers are armed with rifles and they even shoot at our troops."
A month-long security operation undertaken by serveral Kazakh agencies in co-operation with Russian authorities has resulted in the seizure of more than 70 boats containing tonnes of fish and caviar.
About 100 people have been arrested.
"In one single operation we arrested three Azerbaijan boats carrying nearly six tonnes of fish and around two tonnes of black caviar," Sirk Dijam Zakov, the police chief in Otorawa region, says.
The pirates target river mouths where sturgeon swim in warm fresh water at this time of year to ovulate.
The pressure to halt the illegal fishing is on because the Kazakh economy is hurting and because environmental organisations say sealife in the Caspian could be extinct in the next 10 years unless countries along its shores crack down on sturgeon smuggling.
Source: Al Jazeera