The caviar crisis of the Caspian has been a boon for American caviar producers. Over the past twenty years, nearly ninety percent of the Caspian beluga stock has disappeared due to over harvesting. In 2006, the United Nations banned the import of beluga, leaving caviar connoisseurs searching for alternatives to meet their cravings. One option has been the production of farm-raised sturgeon in the USA through the aquaculture industry, especially in the temperate climate zones of California.
The massive white sturgeon, which can grow to over a thousand pounds in the wild, have become a popular choice for aquaculture operations in California. Already native to the Pacific coast, these living fossils can live for a hundred years and can take thirty years to reach sexual maturity and start producing eggs. One immediate advantage of fish farms is that the combination of warm water, ample food and controlled nutrition means they reach maturity much more quickly. American fish farms have also had success raising captive Baerii and Osetra sturgeon, native to Russia, a success replicated in other countries as well.
People should live as well as farm-raised sturgeon. They swim in artesian well water, are fed the ideal, toxin-free diet and have no predators. They no longer have to pay the ultimate price for their life of luxury either, as refined techniques using ultrasounds and surgical equipment allows their roe to be extracted without killing the fish.
Unlike wild sturgeon, whose roe can only be harvested twice a year at most and therefore must be preserved using a higher level of salt, farmed caviars are harvested practically year round and only require three to two percent salting. This makes them a true malassol, a Russian word meaning little salt that is used to distinguish the highest grade of caviar quality.
For consumers it all adds up to a consistently high quality, lower-priced caviar that is not produced from endangered stock.
With the advent of fish farming, the natural fragrance and taste of the famous Caspian caviar can be replicated at a fraction of the cost that epicureans used to pay for a tin of beluga. It also has the added benefit of removing any lingering guilt the environmentally conscious consumer might have over eating the eggs of an endangered species. Farm raised sturgeon are treated like gold and produce a caviar that is no longer the equal of gold in price.