Caviar production in Iran has not yet reached the objectives set by authorities in previous years.
In February 2013 Iran’s Fisheries Organization Director Gholamreza Razeqi stated total caviar production was projected to hit above 3 tons in the fiscal year ending March 20, 2014. The same IRNA report said the country produced 1 ton of caviar through the entirety of the year.
Last Thursday, the Financial Tribune reported just less than 1,200 kilograms of farmed caviar was produced for export in the current Iranian calendar year. This figure was remarkably lower than the predicted number announced the prior year, suggesting problems in caviar production in the Caspian Sea. And considering we are at the end of the year, the numbers are lower than previously anticipated.
The problem for Iran’s Caspian Sea fishermen is, ecologically speaking is that the sea is slowly losing its biodiversity. Thus numbers of fish stocks are significantly lower than any point in history.
In the 1980s, every year roughly 22 tons of caviar was produced in Iran, but as the current official figures suggest this has fallen to a fraction of those bountiful years.
The situation in recent years became so worrying that in 2010 the Caspian Sea littoral state governments agreed on a moratorium from hunting the wild sturgeon.
The Caspian Sea is one of the only places where different types of sturgeon live, with at least four varieties of fish living in different areas of the sea. Persian Sturgeon is the most expensive on the international market reaching costing just under $35,000 for 1kg.
The month May is usually the peak season for fishing the sturgeon fish – Acipenser Persicus by its latin name – however reports from multiple media agencies from the Caspian states say that 2014 was pretty poor year in terms of production numbers. A report from an online blog about fishing in the sea stated that fishermen were only able to catch one fish on every trip out, far less than in previous years’ missions.
According to a Deutsche Welle report in 2012, Iran’s total sturgeon population fell by 90 percent. The report highlighted pollution from Russia’s main rivers running into the sea, “killer algae” and poaching as the main causes to staggering drop in sturgeon levels.
All may not be lost though, as ecological disasters like pollution and poaching gather pace, sooner or (more accurately) later the respective bordering administrations will begin to take charge. In the case of Iran, at the end of 2012, a report on by the Young Journalists Club said Iranian fisheries scientists began producing farmed caviar just off the shores of the Caspian.
In another report by the Guardian dating back to 2008, it stated there was fear among experts and local fishermen around the Caspian Sea that if the process of overfishing, damming and pollution continued, the sea will soon be completely empty of sturgeons. Therefore, the practice of eating caviar will not last much longer. Experts raised serious concerns about the risk of extinction in just over a decade. “If this happens, it added, this generation will be the last to enjoy caviar.”
The Guardian article is being a little hasty when referring to the complete extinction of the fish. What is likely (unfortunately) is that in the next decade, free range sturgeons are likely to be fished to the point of no return. Then, the price of the remaining caviar is likely to skyrocket as the only remaining sturgeon left will be privately bred ones, on sea farms. This is likely to be the only, and best, solution to the survival of the sturgeon.