Government: Ensure Caviar is licensed

A passenger carrying caviar was fined for not making a full declaration at Customs at Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman last week.

You will not be eating this delicacy without having the proper documentation.

The Department of Environment sent out an advisory Tuesday alerting people that they cannot import caviar to Cayman without arranging for the appropriate CITES permit.

CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – exists so that demand for products like caviar does not further endanger species, including the sturgeon fish.

An incoming passenger to Owen Roberts International Airport was detained Monday at Customs for importing 8 ounces of caviar without making the appropriate declaration. The Department of Agriculture confiscated the caviar, and the passenger was fined an undisclosed amount for failing to make a full declaration.

John Bothwell, a research officer at the Department of Environment, said Tuesday that he did not want to make too much of incident at the airport. Mr. Bothwell said that he just wanted to alert the community that proper documentation was necessary to bring caviar into Cayman.

“We take this opportunity to remind the public, particularly restaurateurs, that caviar is banned from international trade without a proper CITES permit,” he said in the press release.

Caviar importers in Cayman must have a valid CITES permit and an import permit from the Department of Agriculture, as well as the usual paperwork for the Customs Department.

Mr. Bothwell said Tuesday that the incident at the airport was not unique, and he wanted to be sure that restaurateurs, tourists and civilians alike do everything they can to comply with the law.

“By making sure that only caviar with CITES permits comes into the Cayman Islands, restaurateurs and government officials are ensuring that the jurisdiction lives up to its legal and moral obligations to be a good actor when playing our small part on the world stage,” he said.

A government spokesperson said there is no way to quantify how much caviar is being imported into Cayman on an annual basis.

Conch – as an import – and black coral for export purposes are also listed among the products included under the CITES umbrella.

All importers or traders in products affected by the CITES regulations must be registered with the Department of Commerce and Investment when renewing their Trade and Business License.

Caviar cannot be traded internationally unless it is harvested under strict national quotas. There are international regulations that dictate how caviar must be labeled, and individual packages can be traced back to a particular factory, country and year. Labeling caviar also allows the consumer to know the species of sturgeon or paddlefish it came from and whether it was farmed or caught in the wild.

“For a product that requires significant documentation for trading to occur – and which can cost hundreds of dollars per kilogram to purchase – people can sometimes get tricked by unscrupulous sellers into buying illegal caviar,” said Mr. Bothwell. “To protect yourself, to make sure that you are getting the type of caviar you are paying for, and to protect the endangered sturgeons, make sure that you have a CITES permit and declare your caviar when bringing it into the Cayman Islands.”

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.



  1. So will caviar will be on the menu at the Department of Agriculture Christmas party?

    I am not supporting the poaching of protected or endangered species. I don;t even like caviar myself.

    But I am sure the person who bough in this very expensive caviar bought it legally in a store and had no idea that it needed a CITES certificate.

    For example one can buy it at Heathrow London Airport all packed up for travel.
    They do NOT provide a CITES certificate.

    Another upset high value tourist who will tell all his/her friends about how the caviar they bought for their Christmas party got taken away by our efficient customs officers. Couldn’t they have just been given a warning?