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Russian scientists find way to produce caviar sustainably


Russian scientists say they’ve discovered a technique to harvest the caviar without killing sturgeon.

If applied, it could bring back the days when families could enjoy caviar without breaking the bank.

With limited supplies and time-consuming production, caviar is one of the most expensive foods on the planet.

However that may soon be a thing of the past.

Russian scientists have created a new, sustainable way of producing caviar.

Scientists say that there exists an alternative: bester, a hybrid between beluga and starlet – which is hardy and very productive

Igor Burtsev, an expert from the fishery research institute, has been working with sturgeon his whole life and even has a species named after him. Thanks to the special living conditions he created, his fish mature three times faster than in the wild. So the caviar can be farmed all year around.

Igor Burtsev showed RT a fish full of caviar: "Here. This is all caviar in the belly - it’s full of it."

Burtsev is also behind a unique technique to harvest the roe without killing the fish. Rather than being culled, like elsewhere in the world, the female fish is - what can best be called - "milked" - gently and harmlessly.

Each time a fish is milked it can produce up to a quarter of its weight in caviar - say this specimen is around 10 kg - so up to 2,5 kg of caviar every time. This approach not only makes caviar more accessible but also helps preserve this increasingly scarce breed of beautiful fish.

Once Russia had about 90% of the world's stock of sturgeon.

But by the turn of the century wild sturgeon was close to extinction and poachers were running the show.

To preserve what was left, Russia halted commercial harvesting in 2002. Five years later the sale of sturgeon and black caviar was banned altogether. Poaching escalated, and so did the prices.

Now Russia is trying to return to the heady days of Soviet caviar abundance.

This is largest farm in Russia. It boasts artesian water, organic fish food, and even spa treatments for the inhabitants. The head of this oasis says this all leads to one inescapable fact.

Yefimenko Vladimir, director of Diana Fish Trading says:
"An unprofessional consumer will hardly be able to tell the difference between the wild and farmed caviar."

However most experts agree that demand will always outstrip supply. And although black caviar may get cheaper - it will never be cheap.


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