Beluga caviar is perhaps the most popular of all caviar types and it’s for good reasons. Connoisseurs consider it as the best of the best and despite its hefty price tag, Beluga Caviar remains in high demand.
Beluga caviar comes from the Beluga Sturgeon (or the European Sturgeon or the Huso huso Sturgeon). Aside from its superior taste, this type of caviar also has the largest grains.
Prior to 2008, the term caviar was used only for roe from sturgeon from the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. This, of course, is similar to how the term Champagne can only be used for wines that are made from grapes in the Champagne region of France.
However, the high demand for caviar, especially Beluga Caviar, led to overfishing, which drastically diminished the sturgeon population.
Another reason for the decline of the Beluga Sturgeon population was the fact that because it has a long lifespan, it takes longer to reach maturity. In fact, it can take 15 years before a Beluga Sturgeon is finally able to produce eggs! It also didn’t help that the most popular way to extract the roe from a Beluga Sturgeon was by killing it. If they had chosen to surgically remove the fish roe while keeping the fish alive, it would have been able to produce more eggs in the future.
And to make matters worse, there are problems with pollution in the Caspian Sea, thanks to agriculture, industries in the nearby areas, as well as population.
Because of this, the Russian government actually banned its caviar from being exported to other European countries. The ban was put in place in 2002 as an attempt to curb overfishing. This ban was finally lifted in 2011. However, it did mean that Russia faced some tough challenges in terms of regaining its spot as a top exporter of Beluga Caviar.
Well, because during the years of the export ban in Russia, Iran took over the top position because Iran didn’t have a ban on exports. And while Russia was able to ban the export of caviar, what Russia was unable to do was moderate the demand for it, which left the field open for Iran and other countries.
Today, there’s a ban in place on commercial fishing of caviar-producing sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, upheld by the countries around the area.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news!
There’s one industry that has flourished thanks to the fishing ban and that’s aquaculture or aquafarming, specifically caviar farms. This type of farming has risen in popularity, with caviar farms in places such as Germany, Hungary, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates and also here in Canada!
In fact, most of the caviar sold globally these days actually come from farmed sturgeons.
With no real end currently in sight for the fishing of wild sturgeon, aquafarming has become the future in terms of obtaining Beluga Caviar.