Trends in Organized Crime

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 181–198 | Cite as

The “fishy” business: a qualitative analysis of the illicit market in black caviar

  • Yuliya G. ZabyelinaEmail author


The Volga-Caspian basin, once the largest habitat of sturgeon species, became a hotbed of wildlife crime in the 1990s. With the rising demand for caviar in various parts of the world, caviar trafficking has grown to unprecedented levels, having put Caspian sturgeons under the risk of absolute extinction. Two decades later, as the Caspian sturgeon populations have been radically depleted, North American supplies of sturgeon species are targeted by criminal masterminds as an alternative illicit source of black caviar. This article identifies some of the trends in the development of the illicit market in black caviar. The analysis utilizes the idea of criminogenic asymmetries developed by Nikos Passas to examine the dynamics of and the driving forces behind this illicit market. Beyond the application of Passas’ framework, the article offers a detailed descriptive analysis of poaching activities and caviar trafficking schemes based on data retrieved from public reports, court files, news media and interviews with officials and journalists.


Illicit markets Wildlife crime Caviar Criminogenic asymmetries 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Newton International FellowEdinburgh Law School—University of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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