Saving sturgeon

Saving sturgeon

Doug Peterson in the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources has developed a cost-effective and sustainable method of farming Siberian sturgeon for caviar in Georgia. Photo by Peter Frey

Caviar is one of the world’s most prized delicacies, but overfishing has pushed wild sturgeon to the brink of extinction. A new, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable method for farming sturgeon pioneered by a UGA professor has the potential to protect wild sturgeon populations while creating a lucrative agricultural commodity.

“Historically, farmed caviar has comprised two percent of the world’s market while 98 percent has come from wild sturgeon,” said Doug Peterson, associate professor of fisheries and aquaculture.

“We’re trying to flip the market so that in 10 years it will be 98 percent farmed and two percent wild. That’ll be good for wild sturgeon populations and for farmers.”

Domestic white sturgeon have been successfully farmed in northern California for decades, but attempts to farm Russian species in North America have been stifled by high start-up costs and the tendency of farmed caviar to have a muddy or “off” taste. Peterson has created a new method of raising Siberian sturgeon that combines readily available aquaculture technology with a highly efficient filtration system and fresh spring water from the mountains of northwest Georgia. The result is environmentally sustainable caviar whose taste rivals that of wild-caught.

The UGA Premium Siberian Sturgeon Caviar is sold by Inland Seafood of Atlanta in containers that bear the UGA Athletics Association logo. All proceeds support sturgeon conservation and aquaculture research at UGA.