Press Release Source: Optimus Inc. Miami-based Caviar Importer Continues Conservation Efforts With Second Transport of Live Beluga Sturgeon to the U.S.

Monday July 7, 4:00 pm ET

-- Potential U.S. Fish and Wildlife decision to move beluga sturgeon to the endangered species list could make this the final transport of live beluga sturgeon to the U.S. --


MIAMI, July 7, 2003: This week, Marky's, a leading gourmet foods importer based in South Florida, announced the arrival of an additional ten Caspian beluga sturgeon to Miami. This transport continues Marky's conservation efforts as the first company to transport live beluga sturgeon, the source of the world's finest caviar, to the U.S.

The recently arrived Caspian beluga sturgeon will join the others to total 20, forming the initial brood stock for Sturgeon AquaFarms, LLC, an aquaculture facility to be built in Central Florida. Within the next three years, Marky's Caviar anticipates producing 500,000 beluga fry at the facility. Until the aqua farm is built, the beluga sturgeon will remain in a holding facility outside of Orlando, Fla.

These efforts, however, may be threatened by a pending U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to list Caspian beluga sturgeon as an endangered species. Should the beluga sturgeon be listed as an endangered species, the research, trade and culture of beluga sturgeon and the caviar it produces would likely be prohibited in the U.S.

Over the past two decades, the Caspian's beluga sturgeon population has dropped significantly due to environmental degradation, invasion of exotic species and over fishing. This decline has prompted companies like Marky's to take steps toward relieving the pressure on the world population of sturgeon, supplementing the wild catch with farmed caviar.

"At Marky's, our goal is to lead change in the caviar industry. Bringing beluga sturgeon to the U.S. for farming is the best way to protect the species and continue providing customers with the high-quality caviar they expect." stated Mark Zaslavsky, Marky's president.

The importation of live beluga sturgeon and the construction of an aquaculture facility to farm this native Caspian stock is only part of Marky's work to change the face of the caviar industry and aid sturgeon conservation efforts. In March 2003, Marky's signed a landmark agreement with Raskat, a Russian caviar producer, to purchase beluga, osetra and sevruga caviar produced without killing adult female sturgeon. This agreement also ensures there is a compensatory release of sturgeon fry into the Caspian Sea in order to replenish the declining stocks of sturgeon.

In addition, under the agreement with Raskat, Marky's also became the first company to require DNA batch tests for each species of caviar, which are verified by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Scientific Authority of the Russian Federation. This DNA analysis of the roe of beluga, osetra and sevruga caviar enables Marky's to ensure the origin and quality of its product to customers.