Sturgeon farm thriving in Bascom

By: Deborah Buckhalter
Published: August 03, 2011

A fish farm in tiny Bascom may be part of solving a big and growing international problem.


With beluga sturgeon populations dwindling after many years of overfishing and damming that cut them off from their spawning areas in the Caspian Sea, the fish has been put on the critically endangered list. Bans on exports/imports and other measures have been taken through the years in an effort to help the populations recover.

A Miami man has started a farm in Bascom to raise these and two other sturgeon types, sevruga and sterlyad. Mark Zaslavsky said he has three goals in his operation: to help restock the Caspian, to sell some of the fish as meat for consumers, and to eventually harvest fish eggs for caviar, a delicacy for people with gourmet tastes and incomes to back it up; the price for beluga caviar can reach well beyond $100 an ounce.

Sturgeon Aquafarms is stocked with the offspring of sturgeon from the Caspian Sea, and is thriving in its second year of operation, Zaslavsky said. He will have to wait about eight years for the fish to sexually mature, before he can harvest his first roe for caviar. He will take some of the fertilized eggs and some of the juveniles back to the Caspian, he said, as well as sell some for consumption.

Zaslavsky said he'll eventually move here himself, but currently he makes his living distributing food and managing people. In about 17 years, he said, he plans to retire to the farm.

"I'm 58, I'm planning another 17 years to work then to retire on the farm and watch the fish grow, maybe bring in some horses," Zaslavsky said. "We did a study of Florida (when choosing a site for the farm), and we went 20-25 times in last couple of years to North Florida. One of the properties we liked was in Greenwood, then we found this beautiful property. There are 10 old pecan trees in front, beautiful trees surrounding it, and we fell in love with it. That's why we're here."

The farm includes more than 100 acres off Tower Road, a couple of miles outside Bascom.

He declined to allow media in to tour the facility, saying he doesn't allow visitors because the fish are so susceptible to disease. Three people work there, he said, feeding the fish and washing their tanks a few times a day.