Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Let them eat cake, but not caviar

I was pleased to learn the other day that the international trade in Caviar has been banned by CITES. Although I'll try just about anything fish eggs don't really do it for me. More important than my own tastes however is the survival of the source of caviar, the sturgeon.

You don't need to be too much of a mathematician to work out that an industry that involves killing the adult females of a species and harvesting their unfertilised eggs will damage a population. When combined with other pressures this has sadly become a real problem. The most popular caviar comes from the giant Beluga sturgeon (Huso huso) but there are a number of other species around the world. This is a captive bred Accipenser baerii, the Siberian Sturgeon in our koi pond.
Sturgeon are not suited to most ponds especially wildlife ponds as their shape and scutes mean they can get trapped in pond weed and die. Due to the design of our pond our three seem to thrive and are growing quite quickly.

The wild european sturgeon is one of two "Royal Fish", the other erroneously being the whale which is not a fish and of which there are lots of species, and so any washed up or caught in UK waters offically belong to the Queen (as technically does this weekend's Northern Bottlenose Whale). There are loads of old pictures of groups of proud villagers on their way to present a sturgeon to the palace but nowadays the european species is very rare or indeed extinct throughout most of its range.

Sturgeon throughout the world are ancient, long-evolved, survivors so lets give them clean water, lay off their eggs and let them survive a bit longer. I'm sure we'll all find something else to put on our canapes (I quite like Mozzarella and Sun-blushed tomatoes).

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