The Sturgeon - Prehistoric survivors of the ice age, sturgeon are among the largest freshwater fishes in the world, with some individuals exceeding 2,000 pounds. Resembling aquatic dinosaurs, sturgeon may be one of the strangest looking fish swimming in our planet’s waters.
Sturgeons grow slowly and mature late, making them particularly vulnerable to man-made pressures, including overfishing, habitat loss, and pollution. Populations of valuable caviar-producing species have dropped to as low as 5% of historical levels worldwide. This is particularly evident in the Caspian Sea region, which has traditionally been the source of most of the world’s caviar. In fact, all species of sturgeon native to that region, as well as several from other continents including North America are currently listed as endangered or critically endangered. Today caviar produced from aquacultured sturgeon greatly exceeds that produced from wild fish. In addition to being the primary source of caviar today, aquaculture of sturgeon is presently considered the most important component of wild sturgeon conservation programs because controlled culture decreases the need or desire for harvesting fish from remaining wild populations. Throughout the 19th century sturgeon was also abundant in North America including rivers along the East Coast, in the Great Lakes, and in the Mississippi River Valley. Sturgeon remains have even been found in Native American trash mounds along the Yadkin River, not far from our farm.
Farming Sturgeon - The farming process at Atlantic Caviar and Sturgeon begins with hatching the eggs, then growing the small juvenile fish in the company’s nursery tanks until they reach a size of approximately 600 g. At this time they are stocked into larger production tanks and are fed every two hours throughout the day. When fish reach a size of approximately 5 kg, males and females are separated, then grown further until they are ready to be harvested. Females are sampled prior to harvest using ultrasound and biopsy methods to assess egg quality. If quality is suitable for our caviar, fish are placed into separate tanks in crystal clear water in preparation for harvest. From the time juveniles are stocked until the caviar is ready to harvest from females normally takes at least five years.
Our facility is HACCP- approved by the US FDA. By providing a superior supply of sustainable meat and caviar, we positively impact endangered wild sturgeon. Our fish are fed a high quality diet free of added hormones or antibiotics, and are raised in naturally cooled, pure water originating in the Blue Ridge Mountains.