Once banned, the delicacy is slated to return to mother-of-pearl spoons in New York this fall.
Caviar has historically been a luxury ingredient. Now she’s garnishing everything from potatoes to waffles to donuts. But there is one type that American consumers have been unable to obtain.
True beluga caviar, the roe of a beluga sturgeon, has been illegal in the United States since 2005, when the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) banned the import of all beluga products from the Caspian Sea.
There is a little known exception. In 2016, Florida-based Sturgeon Aquafarms received the first FWS waiver for the commercial sale of beluga. Owners Mark Zaslavsky and Mark Gelman had to meet various conditions, including not depending on the Caspian Sea stock and helping to restore the wild beluga. It has taken the company three years, but says it is finally ready to bring the product to market.
Caviar is in the midst of a global boom. The market is expected to reach $ 500 million by 2023, a growth of approximately 5.7 percent since 2018, according to Orbis Research. Much of that comes from China, which has 54 percent of the world’s commercial farms. Although it is significantly smaller (the United States has only 16 sturgeon farms), the US is forecast. USA It will become the third largest legal producer of caviar in 2020, surpassing France and Italy, according to the World Sturgeon Conservation Society.
Found mainly in the Caspian Sea, the beluga sturgeon thrives in the depths of cold water. But Zaslavsky, born in Russia, believed he could successfully raise fish even in muggy Florida. In 2003, it began carrying baby beluga sturgeon, each weighing 7 to 22 pounds (3 to 10 kilograms) on flights from Russia to Florida. “It was an adventure,” said Zaslavsky. “We became experienced shippers of live fish.” About 70 specimens were successfully imported before the 2005 ban went into effect.
Operating an aquaculture park is difficult and expensive; Zaslavsky and his partners have spent more than $ 15 million so far. Sturgeon Aquafarms has over 30,000 fish swimming in over 100 tanks. Feeding them only costs up to $ 40,000 a month. In 2018, the first year the company was able to legally harvest and sell its beluga caviar, Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle. The farm lost power, and the breeding females reabsorbed their eggs. The debut of the product was postponed for a year.
Only one other farm in the country breeds beluga: Evans Fish Farm, in Pierson, Florida. The small family operation produces several species of caviar under the Anastasia Gold Caviar brand, but not beluga. It has yet to honor FWS ‘financial commitment to restore beluga habitat. However, Zaslavsky and Gelman are approved by the FWS because they meet all the conditions.
“We were convinced that [Zaslavsky] activity supports the conservation of the beluga in the wild,” said Rosemarie Gnam, division chief of the Scientific Authority of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora at FWS.
In April, Marky’s opened a gourmet store and 12-seat caviar tasting room, Huso, in Manhattan. Until this fall, when Zaslavsky predicts that his beluga caviar will finally arrive, you can try smoked beluga meat. Mixed in a potato salad that evokes its Russian owner, executive chef Buddha Calls It To The Plate: “Mark’s Story,” as in Zaslavsky.