When a south wind blows from the Caspian Sea towards the coastal village of Hovsan, 32 kilometers (20 miles) east of the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, hundreds of dead fish are washed ashore.
The fish are the victims of illegal poachers and indiscriminate methods of killing their prey that are threatening stocks of sturgeon, an endangered species and the most precious resource of the Caspian.
In spring, all kinds of fish swim for shallow waters in order to spawn caviar in warmer waters. Here they fall prey to illegal explosives used by the poachers.
Along the shoreline you can meet amateur fishermen with rods but also men who are evidently poachers getting ready to lay explosive charges.
The ordinary fishermen say that for the last 10 years poachers have been catching fish on this spot, mostly unhindered and using dynamite or homemade explosives made of fertilizers. They go out fishing in motorboats either early in the morning or late at night.
Fishing is one of the most lucrative businesses in modern day Azerbaijan. On the black market, a kilo of fresh sturgeon can be bought for 10 manats (US$12) while a kilo of black caviar costs around 120 manats (US$140). Overseas, these prices can be dozens of times higher.
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) lifted the ban in 2007, prompting objections from many environmentalists. One of them, Dr. Ellen Pikitch, co-founder of the organization Caviar Emptor, which monitors the caviar trade, called the decision a "death sentence," maintaining that the Beluga sturgeon has lost more than 90 percent of its population in recent years.
The amateur fisherman are also unhappy about the poachers in their midst. "Fishing is a recreation for us," said Rizvan Makhmudov, 45. "And when your line doesn't catch anything all the recreation has gone."