First batch of Beluga caviar expected shortly

The sturgeon population is endangered in its existence worldwide. Numerous reasons have led to a dramatic decrease in population especially over the last two decades. Aquaculture can contribute to rebuilding wild sturgeon stocks and to meeting the demand for black caviar.

In 2005, Aquatir, a company based in Tiraspol, Moldova, decided to build a modern recirculation system for sturgeon farming. The project was developed by Dietmar Firzlaff, owner of Aquafuture, and has been supervised by him to date, while the technical implementation was assigned to Billund Aquaculture Service in Denmark, a company that has successfully been building recirculation systems for various species for more than 25 years. The provisional final stage is planned for 2017 when about 60,000 m² will be covered by a roof. The farm will then consist of several modules including incubation and first feeding systems, fingerling and grow-out units, pre-wintering and wintering systems, processing plants, and a laboratory for chemical and microbiological assessments for self-monitoring purposes.

The Aquatir sturgeon farm will supply meat and caviar to markets in the west and the east.

Production to focus on Beluga and Russian sturgeon

Various sturgeon species, sterlet (A. ruthenus), beluga (Huso huso), bester (A. ruthenus x Huso huso), and Waxdick or Russia sturgeon (A. güldenstaedtii), of different ages are currently held at the farm. Sterlet and bester were primarily used for gaining experience. However, in the long run production will be concentrated on belugas and Russian sturgeon. Already several thousands of these sturgeons of different age groups can be found at the farm. They originate from spawners from the Black Sea as well as from the Caspian Sea and are strictly separated. Caviar has been obtained for several years now from sterlet, bester, and Russian sturgeon. Due to the careful control of the production processes, usage of high quality feed and optimal welfare conditions, sexual maturity has been achieved approximately 25% earlier than in nature. Currently, the first belugas are being brought into the wintering systems. They weigh around 100 kg, have a length of approximately 2 m, and are about 10 years old. The first beluga caviar can be expected shortly.

The company is certified to the ISO 22000 and HACCP standards and is registered at CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The priorities of the company are to produce top quality black caviar and other sturgeon products including eggs and fry for export. It will also maintain a gene bank to support reintroduction measures in both the Caspian and the Black Sea and finally it will offer giant sturgeons to suitable customers. The firm owns two processing facilities, which are spatially completely separated from each other. In the first facility, products for the eastern European market as well as the Gulf region are produced, while the second facility was built solely for target groups in Europe, USA and Japan. The reason for the separation of the two is above all the different legal conditions, for example caviar can be extracted without killing the sturgeons in some former CIS countries. Quality is guaranteed by a well-established processing procedure that has been practiced for many years.

Wintering systems for the fish are now installed and functional.

Farm contributes to the environment too

Sturgeon meat is highly sought-after regionally and higher prices can be realized than in many West European countries. An entirely new brood stock system was designed based on the expertise of the company’s specialists. This makes it possible to produce high quality caviar year-round and deliver it as freshly as possible. Due to history, one would expect such a facility to be found in Russia, Iran or Kazakhstan – countries which are traditionally involved with sturgeon farming and the production of caviar. It is telling to see that this farm has been realized in Transnistria – a feat only made possible with good teamwork. As early as autumn 2009, approx. 50,000 fry of Russian sturgeon with an average weight of 100 grams were released into the Dniester. This was the first significant attempt to restock this river with sturgeon, an effort that should contribute to improving the overall ecological status of the river. With this step the company has proven its environmental credentials for the benefit of the region.

Dietmar Firzlaff, Aquafuture

www.aquatir.md, www.aquafuture.de.