The Changing World of Caviar Production
In 2008, it looks the ongoing battles for caviar will be heating up. The fight for the Caspian Sea is starting to get more contentious. In the past, we've mentioned the concerns over the sea and the sturgeon in the sea which are the world's biggest source of caviar. On Monday, Iran firmed up their demand for a share of around 20 percent of the Caspian Sea. There are five Caspian sea states, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. In October, at a summit in Tehran, the five states pledged to work out an agreement to divide the sea but have not agreed on the boundaries yet. Iran's coast is less than 14% of the sea but they think the sea's resources should be divided into five equal portions. The sea is also a source of oil reserves. In terms of caviar the question isn't just access to the sturgeon but also how much caviar, if any, should be harvested. The sturgeon, which can live to over 100 years but mature slowly, are being fished out of existence.
Meanwhile, the black market in caviar continues apace, especially in Russia where the growing ranks of big spenders have an increasing demand for the delicacy. This occurs just as depleted sturgeon stocks have led to bans on caviar. In Russia recently a large crime ring that dealt in illegal caviar was busted. An article in the Independent asserts that most of the caviar sold in Moscow is illegal. The article also states that even the poachers on the Caspian Sea are having trouble making a living.
It is certain that the world of caviar will have to change simply because the Caspian Sea is being fished out. This also represents an opportunity for growing caviar industries in other parts of the world. We've seen a variety of different caviar options arise over the past few years (Check a list of some beluga alternatives i wrote about in 2006) ranging from sturgeon farms in California to paddlefish, trout or salmon roe and even caviar made from seaweed.