Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Ban on imported caviar imposed by UN

There are twenty nine species and subspecies of sturgeon and almost all of them are threatened or endangered. Many are nearing extinction. Why? Caviar. A once abundant food stuff that has become a coveted status symbol. (And is really delicious to eat!)

Caviar is technically the unfertilized eggs of female sturgeons. Beluga Sturgeon, for instance, the grande dame of these fish, can reach a length of 20 feet, a weight of almost 2 and a half tons and live for 150 years. One Beluga female may produce up to 12 per cent of her body weight in caviar. But with the high cost of caviar, there are less and less of these fish in the world, and we need to work to preserve them.

The Caspian Sea, the world's largest inland water body, is the center of an increasingly lawless sturgeon catch and caviar trade, one characterized by poaching, illegal production and smuggling on a massive scale, predominantly by Russians. (Please refer to current economic conditions of Russia before passing judgment.)

Even though Iran, one of the countries bordering the Caspian is doing a great job protecting the species, their neighbors, the Russians, are not. So, in an effort to save the species, yesterday, The United Nations agency that controls trade in endangered species announced they have halted exports of caviar until all of the countries where it is produced comply with an agreement to protect sturgeon.

So like in the days leading up to Prohibition, enjoy your Beluga, Sevruga and Osetra caviar while you can! (Or start to appreciated California farmed caviar, an environmentally positive alternative) The ban goes into effect in January 2005. Hopefully the ban will help raise levels of this great fish, and prevent extinction.

The shelf life of caviar is about 18 months, so if you still want to try some, contact, an excellent (law-abiding) purveyor of Iranian caviar, and then eat.

Caviar is best served simply, very cold, and preferably in a non-metallic bowl nested inside a larger bowl filled with ice. (Silver and metal bowls and utensils should be avoided due to oxidation, which may impart a metallic taste to the caviar.) with toast points or bland, unsalted crackers. Nothing should interfere with the flavor, but if you must, common accompaniments include lemon wedges, sour cream, créme frâiche, hard-cooked egg (yolks and whites chopped separately), and minced onion. Follow each bite with a sigh and a sip of ice-cold vodka or champagne. Enjoy until you are satiated, until you are broke (Quality caviar runs about $100 an oz.) or until the ban goes into effect.

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