|This is a certified translation of a
German article about caviar farming: - Das
Märchen vom massierten Stör - "The fairy tale of the
massaged sturgeon" by Die Tageszeitung - TAZ
- February 15, 2016. (See footnotes for context.)|
|##### start of translation
Decadence and sustainability
The fairy tale of the massaged sturgeonA marine biologist's
promise of environmentally-friendly caviar first caused a stir, but now the
fraud investigators are knocking on her door.
The research concluded:
there's something fishy about sturgeon that lay eggs in a tank.
BREMERHAVEN taz newspaper |
Politically-correct caviar! The idea sounds tempting. Too tempting, even for
politicians, the media, investors. And at the end of the day, it looks like the
fairy tale has lost nine million Euros, including: state aid worth hundreds of
thousands. Handed out when the tempting idea was almost dead in the water. Now
the public prosecutor is investigating charges of fraudulent use of state aid.
Loxstedt Siedewurth industrial estate, on the outskirts of Bremerhaven. Just
last year, the Vivace Caviar farm still stood here, the place where the fairy
tale was supposed to come true. The place where "luxury, animal rights and
research acumen" were supposed to meet, so wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine
newspaper, decadence without a guilty conscience. The finest caviar was going to
be harvested here, i.e. the sturgeon's eggs - while keeping this ancient fish
species, otherwise threatened by extinction, alive.
recently, the idea was unthinkable" claimed the company, an offshoot of the
renowned Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven. It is true that since
2008 a strict ban has been in place against catching wild sturgeon. Yet in many
fish farms around the world, the fish is generally killed in order to harvest
its eggs. Angela Köhler, a marine biologist and AWI professor, then stepped
up, intending to change this. The magazine Land&Meer then distilled her idea
down to a pretty slogan, "Massage, not Murder". The taz newspaper
crowned her the "sturgeon's friend". But today, Ms Köhler prefers
not to talk to the press.
Things were so different back in 2014, when
broadcaster ARD filmed an exclusive documentary about her. Just massage the fish
while it is out of the water, it was claimed in that piece, and then you can
simply "strip off" the eggs. After that, it was claimed on TV, the
fish were "fit as a fiddle". And best of all, according to the
company's PR: "the quality and size of the caviar increases with each
harvest". Now, it's important to understand that the sturgeon gets very
old, but it takes years until they produce eggs for the first time. "The
idea of protecting the species is really at the heart of everything", Köhler
told the ARD. What she didn't mention, and was later reported by Der Spiegel
magazine, was that Vivace Caviar was treating its sturgeon with hormones that
are not even approved for use in Germany.
And the whole thing was her
idea: Angela Köhler actually has a patent for it, in almost 100 countries
worldwide, all paid for by AWI. Vivace Caviar, the company with exclusive
worldwide rights to that patent, filed for bankruptcy in the summer.
In the Weser Kurier newspaper, managing director Thomas Bauer blamed competition
from China and a Swiss investor, family office Wecken & Cie. The latter
initially viewed Vivace Caviar as a "sustainable investment". And
emphasised that they did not simply pull out, but rather "did not increase"
their investment, as sales and costs then became "completely out of
proportion" to each other.
For good reason: The Vivace caviar was
a complete and utter "dud", as a caviar expert informed taz. The
product was "inedible", indeed: "an impertinence". and: it
was clear from the very beginning that Vivace Caviar was "not going to work".
Why? "You can't just strip off the eggs from a sturgeon" the industry
insider says, at least not just with a gentle massage, without hormones. "There
is nothing ethical about this thing", reports the caviar merchant. He talks
of "cruelty to animals".
The end result of the bankruptcy is
several jobs lost and ten million Euros in debts, as confirmed by bankruptcy
administrator Edgar Grönda. He is expecting to recover around one million
Euros from the company assets. It is true that live sturgeon are extremely
expensive. But since commercial production at Vivace Caviar was officially
operated as "animal experiments" on account of the hormones, the fish
can only be sold off as cheap animal fodder or as an ingredient for cosmetics.
is not only a concern for the investors, but also for the public authorities,
who subsidised Vivace Caviar just before the insolvency to the tune of almost
670,000 Euros. The Lower Saxony Ministry of Agriculture approved the state aid.
The Ministry has now filed charges against Bauer - for fraudulent use of state
aid. And that isn't the end of her legal woes: The Stade public prosecutor's
office has confirmed that Bauer is also under investigation for the withholding
and embezzling wages.
This isn't the first company that has set out
with a vision of producing sustainable caviar: Caviar Creator, from Demmin in
Western Pomerania was the other company. They also promised double-digit returns
to investors and planned to produce several hundred tons of caviar per year. In
2010 the company boss was sentenced to three years and eight months in jail for
investment fraud running into the millions.
Ralf Bos is one of the very
first people who tried Vivace Caviar. A chef and fine foods merchant, he is one
of the key players in the industry. "That stuff tasted horrible", Bos
says, also saying he "never" intended to include it in his product
range. "It was crystal clear to me that this product would never sell."
that is saying something: The caviar market is small - if production increases,
the price falls. In 2014, 240 tons of farmed caviar were produced worldwide,
with the majority coming from China. By 2019, the amount of caviar harvested is
forecast to double. But prices are currently falling by about 10% per year.
According to Bos, the wholesale restaurant price of caviar today is a good 500
Euros, with "sensational quality" product costing as much as 800
Euros. In 2004, the price was still as high as 4,000 Euros.
to harvest the eggs before full maturity for this kind of caviar, then the
little black eggs are firmer. Vivace Caviar used ovulated eggs, meaning: ready
to be fertilised. "It looks like a mass of jelly which has been churned up
with a fork", says Bos. "It was then reformed back into balls using
molecular cooking methods". For Rolf Bos, Vivace Caviar was "dead in
the water after the first spoonful".
ROLF BOS, CHEF AND CAVIAR
"It was crystal clear to me that this product would
Bos also soon realised that the caviar made in Loxstedt Siedewurth was
not quite as innovative and ethically unimpeachable as was being claimed and
reported. "Fantastic fairy tales" was what Ms Köhler was telling
him, he said, also mentioning that the people at Vivace Caviar were "not
honest". Because: This thing with the ovulated caviar is by no means new.
In fact, it is "old hat", in Russia at least, and has "never made
an impact" on the market. Why? "It has no taste." And Vivace's
methods "weren't very good for the fish", Bos says. "It is an
illusion to believe that you can produce high-quality caviar for culinary use
without the sturgeon dying. You can only ever harvest ovulated eggs from live
fish and they are the ones most unsuitable for eating."
AWI soldiers on, "we continue to believe in the enormous potential of the
patent-protected process and its technical feasibility" states an AWI
spokesperson. "Initial contacts we have recently made with interested
parties confirm this belief." The AWI expects it will be able to
successfully license its patent in future. The research institute is reluctant
to reveal how much the patent cost them, "for competitive reasons". A
patent lawyer interviewed by taz on this matter believes that on top of the
official fees of around 3,000 Euros and the cost of a patent lawyer - "perhaps
somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 Euros" - additional costs "in the
lower to mid five-figures" would have been required to register the patent
in other countries.
A recent report in this regard by the Swiss
Tagesanzeigernewspaper stated that in 2013 a company called "Kasperskian
Caviar" paid 1.75 million Swiss francs for an "exclusive licence"
for a Russian-registered patent. For a process that is similar to the one used
by Angela Köhler. This process also involves keeping the fish alive while
harvesting the coveted eggs. According to the Tagesanzeigerthe people behind
this new company are the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nestlé and
a Russian businessman. The AWI denies that their patent has been purchased by "Kasperskian
Caviar". "We have not yet issued any further licences", states
the AWI spokesperson. The search for potential buyers continues.
insiders doubt that AWI will be successful in their search. In the meantime, the
collapse of Vivace Caviar continues to generate attention: The taxpayers'
federation plans to add the case to its "black book": "Companies
in financial difficulties are in principal prohibited from enjoying the benefits
of state aid."
The CDU party in the Lower Saxony parliament have
referred the case to the state audit office. "If the review indicates it
was foreseeable that the solvency of the company was not feasible", the
Agriculture Minister from the Green party, Christian Mayer, "not only
supported a controversial animal experiment with public funds, but also
needlessly wasted tax monies," the CDU states.
By the way, Vivace
Caviar is still available on the Amazon website: 50 grams for 107.25 Euros.
| ########## end of translation ©
2016 ########## |
from the original German text in the article
Märchen vom massierten Stör
|about the above article - (this English
The independently produced certified English translation
above is offered as part of the public record of discussion about the
caviar market. If you have any questions or comments you should contact the
publisher of the original German article.
The above English
translation was commissioned to assist readers in an English hamlet (East
Chiltington) learn more about various aspects of international caviar farming
and production when development plans were submitted in 2016 to construct a
caviar farm in their lane. For more about that see wrongthingwrongplace.com