Countries such as France, Israel and China are already involved in the industry. (Photo: YouTube,primetimeru/FIS)
Sturgeon farming flourishes
Tuesday, March 29, 2011, 15:30 (GMT + 9)
Russia is amping up its farmed caviar production, as a three-year-old fish farm in the Kaluga region plans to produce 16 tonnes of sturgeon eggs per year by 2014.
Due to unrestrained overfishing of the species after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia introduced a moratorium on commercial fishing of sturgeon in the Caspian Sea nine years ago, where 90 per cent of the world's non-farmed caviar comes from. The other four countries along the Caspian Sea agreed to respect the moratorium.
At the fish farm in Gamzyuki, workers make a shallow incision in a sturgeon’s belly and squeeze the black eggs into a steel basin several times a month.
"It makes economic sense, since we only have to farm a third as many fish as if we had to kill them," said Vladimir Kalashnikov, a former fisher and the farm's director, reports Bangkok Post.
The farm has thus far only produced 5 yearly tonnes of caviar because its fish are still reaching maturing.
"At the moment, we are only at the preliminary stage. We need to give the fish time to produce caviar," Kalashnikov explained.
Caviar farming has a bright future because the moratorium will take decades to allow the wild sturgeon population to replenish itself, he told.
"It is hard to believe that the (wild) sturgeon population will re-establish itself in the next 20 years," he warned.
"Relentless industrialisation and poaching have severely harmed this population," stated Alexander Savelyev, spokesperson for the Federal Fisheries Agency.
The government has thus encouraged businesses to open such farms by establishing clear industry rules, he said.
Further, the government has gotten stricter on sturgeon poachers. It is running a "serious fight" against the black market, worth an estimated USD 1 billion a few years ago, according to Savelyev.
Last month, the agency issued the first permit for the export of up to 150 kg of farmed caviar to the European Union (EU) after a nine-year ban. Russia plans to issue additional permits for a total of 2.5 tonnes in 2011.
Although countries such as France, Israel and China are already involved in the industry, Savelyev believes Russia has a competitive advantage because of its history as the authentic origin of caviar.
"It's the brand that matters most of all," he remarked.
In Russia, black caviar is being produced in an industrial scale in both Astrakhan and Kaluga. Also, sturgeon farms in Rostov and Novosibirsk will soon be able to produce 10-15 tonnes of caviar per year.
Black caviar is also produced in Iran and Azerbaijan.
- Black caviar exports to EU resume after nine years
- Caspian states may impose sturgeon fishing ban
By Natalia Real