"Those accused of illegal black caviar marketing should be put in prison. There is no legal black caviar on Russian markets," Andrei Krainy, the head of Russia's Federal Fisheries Service, said. "So, illegal trade in black caviar should be given the same status as drug dealing."
Fishing industrially for sturgeons in the Caspian Sea and the Lower Volga was banned in 2002 and was done selectively for reproduction and research purposes, ITAR-Tass reported Friday.
Black caviar can only be bought in restricted amounts in specialized shops from official producers, Krainy said, and there will be no sturgeon fishing at all in 2010.
Krainy says his agency is stepping up anti-poaching measures.
"For these ends, beginning from the spring of 2010, we are going to take a number of measures to monitor sturgeon habitat areas and to step up anti-poaching efforts," he said.
These will include rotating inspector teams monitoring the Lower Volga areas for poachers, the news agency said.