Polarfisk has been battling for four years to get permission from Norway’s Environment Ministry to introduce a new species to the country for aquaculture, arguing that as the sturgeon will be bred in tanks on land, there is little risk of them escaping to the wild.
Last week, it finally got the go ahead, opening the way for the company to build a new plant capable of producing up to 300 tonnes of gutted sturgeon fish and ten tonnes of farmed sturgeon caviar a year.
“This will be the first facility in Norway where we both rear sturgeon and produce readily marketable Russian caviar,” Anker Bergli, the company’s chief executive, told Norway’s NTB news wire.
Norway has become a world leader in farmed salmon since the country pioneered the use of floating sea cages in the late 1960s, but has yet to commercialise sturgeon production.
Illegal sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea, the traditional source of the finest beluga caviar, has led to plummeting fish stocks and soaring prices, forcing the caviar industry to rely ever more on farmed fish.
Polarfisk is now attempting to raise money from investors to fund the construction of the plant, which will be based on a system pioneered in Denmark.
“Both products are well remunerated, and we are not reinventing gunpowder, but adopting a technology already developed in Denmark,” Bergli said. “We will have full control of the water used in production, with a recycling rate of over 99 percent.”
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Last week Norway’s environment ministry gave the company its approval after concluded that there was little chance of the fish escaping.
“Although it can not be ruled out, it is the Ministry's view that it is unlikely that escaped sturgeon will find their way to the suitable rivers in southern Norway, and even less likely that they repeatedly, in large numbers, will find their way to suitable rivers.”