Caviar is the first U.S. importer to enter into an agreement
with a Russian caviar producer to surgically remove the
sturgeon’s eggs “to save one of the world’s most precious
prehistoric fish from becoming extinct.”
The agreement, which entails saving
the adult female sturgeon by removing the eggs at special
Russian facilities, is the first of its type by a U.S.
importer of caviar, a state official said.
“This agreement will help to save one
of the world’s most precious prehistoric fish from becoming
extinct,” said Mark Berrigan, the bureau chief of the
Bureau of Aquaculture Development, a division of Florida’s
Berrigan has been working with Marky’s
Caviar to help the importer develop a sturgeon farm to
produce caviar in the state.
The break up of the Soviet Union helped hasten the demise
of sturgeon, Berrigan said. Economic turmoil and a lack
of strong government oversight forced the closings of
a vast network of hatcheries that had been successfully
cultivating caviar without killing the sturgeon during
the 1990s, Berrigan said.
That shows up in the annual statistics
released last month.
The South Florida Customs District is
now the No. 3 importer of caviar in the nation, slipping
from No. 2 last year. A huge drop in caviar from Russia
– from $1.9 million to $126,000 – is to blame.
Overall, $930,000 in caviar was imported
in 2002 through South Florida, a popular destination because
of the cruise industry
here. New York imported $5.6 million of the delicacy
last year, followed by Los Angeles at $1.2 million.
The United States consumes about 80 percent of all
the caviar exported by the nations along the Caspian
Sea, an inland salt lake between Europe and Asia, bordering
Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakstan, and Iran. Those nations,
led by Iran, last year exported
about 172 tons of caviar, which can sell for as much
as $90 per ounce.
Iran is now the No. 1 exporter of caviar to Miami.
The fish that produces caviar has been in danger of
extinction, a fact that has come to light among environmental
groups in the past two to three years.
It is estimated that by the late 1990s, the number
of beluga sturgeons – producing the most expensive and
most sought-after caviar – that spawn in the Caspian
dropped to about 1,800, compared with 26,000 in the
The agreement between the Miami importer and the Russian
producer, Raskat, calls for all beluga caviar to be
produced without killing the fish. The goal in 2004
is that 90 percent of osetra caviar will be saved, and
by 2005, 90 percent of sevruga caviar.
The adult sturgeon that produce caviar will be tagged
and released into the wild, where their post-surgical
adaptation and migration patterns will be studied.
“Our customers will have proof that our product has
been obtained in a legal and ecologically sound manner,
and will know that they are supporting the sturgeon
conservation efforts in the Caspian region,” Mark Gelman,
vice president and co-founder of Marky’s Caviar.