November 19, 2009 / / 0 comments
The caviar of the sturgeon is the most expensive. Currently, the dwindling fishing yields as a result of overfishing and pollution have resulted in the creation of less costly, though popular, caviar-quality roe alternatives from the whitefish and the North Atlantic salmon.
The harvest and sale of black caviar have been banned in Russia since August 1, 2007. The ban extends for 10 years, but scientific research and the artificial breeding of black caviar fish are exempted.
Commercial caviar production normally involves stunning the fish (usually by clubbing its head) and extracting the ovaries.
Nowadays most commercial fish farmers extract the caviar from the sturgeon surgically (compare Cesarean section) and then sew up the wound to keep sturgeon alive, allowing the females to continue producing more roe during their lives.
Nevertheless, other farmers are going even further, they are using a process called “stripping”, taking the caviar out of the fish without surgical intervention. This is the most humane approach towards fish that is present in our days, but not all farmers can do it due to the lack of knowledge in this field.
Given its high price in the West, caviar is associated with luxury and wealth. In Russia and other Eastern European cultures, though still expensive, caviar is commonly served at holiday feasts, weddings, and other festive occasions. Sturgeon-derived caviar is generally not eaten by Jews because sturgeon lack the scales mandated by the kosher diet. Sturgeon possess ganoid scales instead of the permitted ctenoid and cycloid scales. Although there is a discussion of its status within Halacha, since the scales will come off if soaked in lye; however, this does not apply to every roe-yielding fish species. In Islam generally all sea or river animals such as fish are lawful and halal which applies to the sturgeon as well as its caviar (depending on which school of practice), though in Twelver Shi’a Islam the creature has to have scales. In East Asia, “caviar” made from caplin roe may be found on sushi and is often very affordable. Salmon roe is called “ikura” in Japanese, a loan word from the Russian, “ikra” (caviar).