After many years, beluga sturgeons are returning to Croatia.
Beluga caviar from Croatian fishponds? The Poljana fish farm near Garešnica says it is a possibility. In the strictly controlled environment, it already has spectacular specimens of beluga sturgeon. Just 15 grams of the best quality beluga caviar is usually sold for more than 800 kunas, reports Večernji List on November 27, 2017.
With the tradition of freshwater fish farming more than 115 years long, Poljana has both the knowledge and the courage to launch such a project. They were prompted in this direction two years ago by a lecture on the production of caviar at the international conference on aquaculture in Vukovar.
Beluga sturgeon can reach the length of up to seven meters and weighs about a ton and a half. It is a little-known fact that this living fossil, protected by the CITES convention as one of critically endangered species, once lived in this part of the world, in the waters of the Danube, Sava and Drava rivers.
“The last specimens in the Danube disappeared after the construction of the Đerdap Dam, since it has prevented migration to the upper watercourses for reproduction. It is difficult to organise its commercial breeding, and that represents a huge challenge,” says the director of the Poljana fish farms Milan Božić.
Božić adds that the production of caviar in intensive farming takes between 8 and 25 years when it is possible to get between 50 and 60 kilograms of the best caviar. Poljana expects that the fish will next year be moved to outdoor ponds, and in about two to three years they should be able to offer its meat in the form of fresh and processed products (fillets, chops, fresh, marinated, smoked…).
They also plan to build a processing plant next to the ponds, which currently cover 1,200 hectares. The proposed investment in this facility, which will produce fresh and frozen fish, fillets, smoked and marinated products and ready-to-eat fish dishes, will amount to about three million euros, including hopefully some from the EU funds. At the beginning of next year, they will also open a retail and wholesale fish shop in Zagreb.
Poljana is Croatia’s largest freshwater fish company, producing between 600 and 750 tons of fish per year. All Croatian fish farms together produce about 3,000 to 3,500 tons. “Even if we were to produce 15,000 tons, it would still not be enough,” says Božić.
There is still much work to be done to educate people to buy local fish. Yet, much of the fish from Croatian fishponds is exported to other countries. “Europe is ‘hungry’ for the fish. European producers can meet just 35 percent of the market demand, and most of the fish in the EU is imported from third markets, Asia and Africa,” says Božić.
Translated from Večernji List.