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From wild to farmed sturgeon, Caviar’s success story

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Caviar production is recent in China but the Kaluga and Amur sturgeon are endemic to the Amur river. We just showed the Chinese how to harvest the eggs
— Karin Nebot

When Karin joined Kaviari, the company her father founded in 1975, the climate was bleak for the caviar economy. Wild caviar was banned in 2006 due to overfishing and wild sturgeon was put on the list of endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The sturgeon-exporting countries bordering the Caspian and Black seas suddenly saw their business disappear. With 27 species of sturgeons in the Northern hemisphere, farming caviar seemed like the only solution. And so caviar farms sprouted in countries such as Bulgaria, Italy and China. One of the main challenges of aquaculture was to ensure the quality was equivalent to wild caviar. Farmers were quick to introduce regulatory practices to ensure excellence, such as controlling the quality of the water, food and breeding conditions.

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When people challenge the sustainability of caviar, I remind them that every part of the sturgeon is used (from meat to skin or bladder), and that it is raised and farmed locally. You cannot farm these sturgeons outside their endemic environment

Today, with 300 tonnes of caviar consumed yearly, the redeployment is a success. China provides 20% of the world’s farmed caviar. It remains a luxury product mostly appreciated by the Russians, the Americans and the French. Even if production is set to increase in the next five years, caviar remains a very expensive delicacy. Like wine, it requires expert craftsmanship, specifically for its salting and ageing process. When tasting caviar in all its purity, one wonders if species like tuna, cod or shrimps might one day become also precious farmed delicacies.

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