Any restaurateur caught selling illegal caviar in the UK faces a two year prison sentence and a fine of up to £5,000 under new European Union regulations.
The crackdown on the illegal caviar trade aims to stamp out the decline in the sturgeon and paddlefish population in the Caspian Sea.
These major producers of caviar have seen their populations decline by 40% in the past 15 years leading to concerns of poaching and over-fishing.
Since 1 July, all caviar sold in the UK must be marked with non-reusable labels approved by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the EU.
Caviar without these labels will be seized by the police or HM Revenue and Customs officers.
EU countries imported 591 tonnes of caviar last year but only 12 tonnes of illegal caviar has been seized between 2000 and 2005.
For reaction to this story see tomorrow's Caterer (12 July).
By Christopher Walton