Sturgeon breeding in captivity

The market situation began to change again because of the aquaculture development. The new technology allowed to not only reduce the giant load on natural ecosystems but even to start recovering of endangered sturgeon fish populations. Unfortunately, the sturgeon is not that easy to breed in simulated conditions as, for instance, salmon or carp. The fact is that sturgeon species are extremely sensitive to the water pollution level, and above all they do not spawn in captivity. They need a special pool and the females fertilization is managed with an operation.

On the other hand, only sturgeon breeding in aquafarms gives an opportunity to get the black caviar without killing fish. The scientist Angela Köhler from Jakobs university in Germany invented the method of extracting the caviar from the fish body with a cesarean-like surgical procedure. This method allows to produce three times more of caviar. Fish females are not getting killed anymore in order to extract the caviar but can be used for another fertilization. A great advantage of this procedure is that the extracted caviar does not become overripe and deteriorate, and its quality remains extra high.

The only inconvenience for the large producers is that every surgical procedure requires time and money because it is individual. However these costs are more than compensated with keeping the most important resource – fish females that produce the caviar.

In captivity the sturgeons need from seven to eleven years to reach the age of puberty. On the fish farms with the proper feeding the puberty comes on the third year.

To kill the producing female fish after getting the first portion of caviar is simply prodigally.  Now the cycle from fertilization to caviar extraction can be repeated several times in a row. The quantity of the product is limited by the fish’s maximum capacity only.

Generally, the USA were the first to master the technology, they started in 1970’s, then there were Western European countries. In France starting with 90’s the fish farm near Bordeaux sells caviar to the restaurants all around the world. The USA now annually produce about 50 tons of aquacultural black caviar. European countries manufacture around 40 tons a year. China joined them in the beginning of 2000, it breeds more than 20 thousands tons of sturgeons every year. According to experts, the black caviar sales volume from China will get up to 300 tons over the next few years.

A couple of years ago Israel exported the first consignment of black caviar from the farm in kibbutz Dan. The fertilized caviar for sturgeon breeding was bought from Russian institute in 90’s. After twenty years the caviar «came back» to Russia at a different price. As mentioned above, in Russia there was the ban on sturgeon species catch because of the destruction of sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea. So the prices for black caviar shot up from 500 to 4000 dollars for a kilogram. Now Israel will be able to cover farm’s investments by exporting sturgeon meat and caviar to Russia.

One more interesting project is the sturgeon farm in Portuguese region Algarve. Previously it was accepted that the sturgeon fish lives in the cold water only but farm’s director proved it wrong. Moreover, the warm water even contributes to the sturgeon growth. In Russia it takes 20 years for a young fish to develop in adult one, in Portuguese the same maturity level is achieved within 7 years only.

Situation in Russia today

In recent years in Russia nobody already knew whether the black caviar can be purchased anywhere except the elite Moscow restaurants and how much it was. Today the black caviar is in the stores again. Its price starts from 2500 rubles for 50 grams. It is a legal caviar produced by Russian farms. The largest of them are in Vologda region, Astrakhan and Bashkiria. At the end of 2008 the fish plant with the sturgeon pools was opened in Gamzyuki village, Kaluga region. They use the German technology of the caviar extraction without killing fish. The plant’s management expects to produce up to 16 tons of the black caviar for export by 2015.

Price for the black caviar

The price does not depend on the caviar’s producer. The main thing is the fish that had it inside. The most valuable caviar is from beluga which is listed in the Red Book. One kilogram of this caviar can cost up to 620 Euros in Russia and up to 7 thousands Euros overseas. So the most costly roe is beluga caviar. The retail cost of Iranian imperial beluga caviar is 750 dollars for 30 grams.

The second popular caviar is sturgeon roe, its production is much greater and according to experts estimates comes to 180 tons a year. Correspondingly, the price for 1 kilogram starts from 1 thousand Euros.

The main consumers of sturgeon species fish and black caviar are people from different social classes but surely the majority comes from the middle class and higher.

Intermediaries are large trading networks, markets and restaurants, hotels.

Where the black caviar is produced

Today the main producers of the farmed caviar are China, Uruguay, Israel, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Finland, Russia, the USA, the UAE, Canada and Saudi Arabia.

In the following section there is an analysis of the black caviar market and assessment of its potential development by the world prices analysis, statistics and expert opinions.