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Caviar facts

1. Sturgeon have survived since the days the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Commercial fishermen have hunted sturgeon for their roe and meat since at least 1100 BC. Ancient Greek and Roman literature refers to caviar, and the Chinese were trading it as early as the 10th century AD.

2. Historically, the Caspian Sea - bordered by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran - has been home to the world's largest abundance of Sturgeon. The largest inland body of water on Earth, the Caspian is fed by more than 100 rivers.

3. A single Sturgeon can produce hundreds of pounds of roe, though the very largest fish are extremely rare today, following decades of overfishing, poaching, pollution and habitat loss.

4. Of the most concern is the beluga sturgeon, which produces beluga caviar, whose populations have declined more than 90 percent in the past two decades. Experts believe beluga sturgeon are so depleted that they may no longer be reproducing in the wild.

5. Demand for the delicacy is highest in the European Union, Switzerland, the United States and Japan, which together account for 95 percent of the world's total caviar imports.

6. The United States is the largest market for beluga caviar, importing 60 percent of world supplies. Imported caviar sells for $100 an ounce or more in the United States. From 1989 to 1997, the United States imported an average of 130,000 pounds of caviar per year, worth about $6.6 million. Caviar from the three principal Caspian Sea sturgeon species - beluga sturgeon, Russian sturgeon (osetra caviar) and stellate sturgeon (sevruga caviar) - dominates the U.S. caviar market.


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