Chile is the world’s second largest salmon producer after Norway and will now be able to join the select group of caviar producers. After 15 years of research the first specimens of white sturgeons bred in captivity were hatched. Their eggs are what make up this exclusive delicacy.
The result is part of a Fondef project that received financing for some $384 million (around US$ 800,000) from the Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (Conicyt), the organization dedicated to promoting and supporting innovation in the country.
Juan Carlos Uribe, a researcher at the Universidad de Los Lagosin Puerto Montt and the project’s leader, affirmed that “this is a great opportunity for Chile considering the value of caviar and sturgeon meat, but also because it is a species in danger of extinction.”
Uribe says that now sturgeon “can move on to the commercial level” in Chile, as happened with salmon production in the 1990s.
The fish is considered a living fossil: its skeleton is comprised of regular bones instead of typical fish bones and it has no scales. Its eggs, or the caviar, can cost between US$ 1,000 and US$ 2,000 per kilo.
Currently sturgeon fishing is concentrated in the Caspian Sea, with Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iran the biggest exporters. However, excessive exploitation has brought it to the verge of extinction, which has led many countries like Chile to develop techniques to cultivate it.