Once synonymous with the Russian Czars, the glitz of first-class flights, and the glamour of Hollywood, Russian caviar virtually disappeared from the market after 2005. Overfishing and stock depletion in the Caspian Sea caused a widespread species depletion. The Beluga sturgeon especially, which produces the coveted Beluga caviar, was particularly impacted, the fish driven almost to extinction. Once the biggest importers of Beluga caviar in the world, the US decided to unilaterally ban the import of this delicacy and help preserve the species. Overfishing, poaching, plus pollution in the Caspian Sea caused Russia and Iran (the other main exporter of caviar) wild caviar supply to dwindle, making room for more sustainable, eco-friendly options: aquafarms.
Thankfully, many countries stepped in and saw an opportunity to offer the famed Russian caviar, but “grown” abroad; the secret? Aquaculture. The keyto farming Russian caviar outside of Russia is recreating the Caspian Sea elsewhere, under the perfect conditions: pristine waters, rigorously supervised fish, and of course, bringing in authentic, “purebred” Russian sturgeon, with a wide genetic pool in order to reproduce at the water farms. The same Russian caviar sturgeon, but brought up in a much healthier, more sustainable way.
These facilities exist all around the world in places as far-flung as Israel, Italy, France, Uruguay, and the United States. A more controlled operation means a higher quality, more consistent product. Sturgeon like Sevruga, Osetra, Beluga Hybrid, and other species are brought up in impeccable conditions, and the caviar extracted and processed under strict supervision. The health of the fish is constantly supervised, as is the quality of the water, and things can be adjusted accordingly, something that cannot happen in the wild.
In Israel, for example, farming collectives known as kibbutz have transformed into aquafarms for sturgeon, taking advantage of the unpolluted location and fresh mountain spring waters that feed into the ponds. Russian Osetra and Sevruga from Israel yield an fresh caviar, pure and smooth. Israel blends prized sturgeon genetics with the most modern, state-of-the-art facilities, and produce some of the best caviar in the world today.
Caviar is labeled Russian because it is born of Russian stock – sturgeon genetically identical to its Russian ancestors.
Traceability is key: the source of the caviar is always transparent, which also helps avoid counterfeiting and the rise of illegally poached caviar. Today we can enjoy delicious Beluga, Sevruga, and Osetra caviar from the same Russian fish that roamed the Caspian Sea, enjoyed by the Russian Imperial court, in a sustainable manner.
Meanwhile, the wild stocks of Beluga and other sturgeon are allowed to replenish peacefully.
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