|This is a certified translation of a
German article about caviar farming: - Gemolkene Fische
- "Milking Fish" by Der
Spiegel - August 22, 2015. (See footnotes for context.)|
|##### start of translation
Milking FishA renowned marine biologist wanted to make
ethically-produced caviar. The fish farm has now gone bankrupt and the
taxpayers' money is gone.
Many technological revolutions started life
in a simple garage. History could have been made in a windowless hangar in the
Loxstedt-Siedewurt industrial estate on the edge of the port of Bremerhaven. The
innovation that was puzzled out there could at least have eased the conscience
of wealthy foodies all around the world. A bleak structure next to a concrete
factory is home to the firm Vivace. The owner's great aim was to produce caviar
in an ethical way.
"Until now it has only been possible to extract
caviar from immature sturgeon eggs," says Angela Köhler, a researcher
at the renowned Alfred-Wegner-Institut in Bremerhaven, explaining her
requirements. That means that the prehistoric sturgeon, some varieties of which
are at imminent risk of extinction, have to be slaughtered. But thanks to a new
patent, that was developed by her and is now protected in 99 countries, Köhler
says that these animals no longer need to die. Mature fish eggs from living
sturgeon can now be hardened and processed later. Instead of a bloodbath, this
luxury product can now be extracted by gently massaging the belly of the fish.
Sturgeon can continue producing caviar again and again throughout their long
But now the touching story of fish that can be milked like cows
has come to a sad end. 14 months after production started in Loxstedt, the
sturgeon farm has run out of money, allegedly because its main investor from
Switzerland has bailed. Since July, a preliminary liquidator has been in charge
of 10,000 fish in 77 tanks.
The European Union and the Federal State of
Lower Saxony pumped 667,000 into the scheme as recently as June (2015),
but officials are now worried about that aid money. And since then it has become
clear that the idea of cleanly produced caviar was really a dubious marketing
fairytale for extracting money from donors and customers.
Government in Hannover also takes some of the blame for all too trustingly
believing the scientist's assurances that she could revolutionise the production
of this globally sought-after delicacy.
The mission to save the
sturgeon began in Iran in 2005. As Professor Köhler was keen to emphasise
until now, that is when she had a pivotal experience of sorts. At a specialist
conference she says she saw how a female sturgeon taken from the wild was
slaughtered to extract caviar. But because the eggs were said to have already
been too mature for processing, the entire fish carcass was discarded. She says
she was appalled and dedicated herself scientifically from then on to sturgeon
The marine biologist developed a patent for hardening fish eggs -
without this technology, mature sturgeon eggs would be much too soft. Five years
later, she took her patent and set up Vivace GmbH to profitably market her idea.
That worked with resounding success in the media: "This is what happens
when luxury, animal rights and the spirit of research meet," the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung raved a year and a half ago. "Caviar without
the bloodshed," ARD said of the project. "NATO caviar," was the
headline in Bild: "So now you can anger Moscow and Tehran just by eating
caviar. And also have a clear conscience. Exquisite."
farm was also joined by donors such as the Swiss investor Klaus Wecken. Even KfW
Bank became a shareholder.
What the journalists didn't report: "Stripping"
caviar eggs from living fish has been an established process in Russia for
centuries. There are also methods for processing mature fish eggs.
much as it makes sense to keep using sexually mature female sturgeon rather than
slaughtering them, caviar from mature eggs has always remained a niche product.
Real food connoisseurs find the taste too bland.
The industry reacted
with the same scepticism. "Of course it is a nice idea to let the fish
live," says marine biologist Willy Verdonck from the Belgian firm Royal
Belgian Caviar, "but we favour slaughtering our sturgeon only after they
have had a nice life with us for seven or eight years."
expensive, and Vivace charges a princely sum for its animal-friendly image:
prospective buyers must part with 119 for 50 grams of the delicacy, for
example at the fish counter of the Bremen delicatessen Lestra. US customers
sourcing this Vivace caviar through their American distribution partner the
California Caviar Company pay some $201 including shipping for 28 grams of the
apparently fairly produced caviar.
But the clear conscience bit is
tricky. Because the sturgeons have to be stimulated with a hormone, otherwise
the process of squeezing out the roe from the belly of the fish can end up
taking hours or days, which certainly not all fish can survive.
embarrassing for the professor that this hormone treatment for sturgeon is not
permitted in Germany, as there is no permitted preparation for it. Köhler
solved this problem with academic creativity, as her company registered its
planned caviar production as animal testing. The purpose of which was to
determine the optimum dosage for sturgeon to induce ovulation.
request was met with scepticism at the Lower Saxon authorities. Does the
production of luxury foods count as animal testing? The leaders finally agreed
upon a tricky line of reasoning: The fish should be injected with a
Canadian-made synthetic counterpart of a natural hormone. Ultimately, the
experiment with this preparation was said to somehow support the conservation of
the sturgeon species. Because if caviar production in tanks gets up and running
flawlessly, no-one would need to hunt wild, endangered sturgeon any more.
sounds a bit like saying you want to optimise the breeding of dairy cows in
order to save bison from extinction. Because the Siberian sturgeon kept by
Vivace is actually classified as a straightforward farmed fish.
animal testing approval had a good effect on Vivace. Although there are still no
results available from their research, the company is allowed to market caviar
extracted by hormone injections.
Although experts deem this to be
harmless for consumers, it did give the company an advantage over competitors
such as Dietmar Firzlaff. The owner of the company Aquafuture from Kreuztal in
North Rhine-Westphalia has been in the fish farming business for decades. His
company designed and built a sturgeon farming facility in Moldova which is one
of the largest of its kind in the world. Here, every year the 135 employees,
with a covered tank area of 50,000 square metres, produce some ten tonnes of
caviar of both kinds: traditional and from mature, ovulated eggs.
too, has his fish stimulated with hormones, which he admits. However, he does
not distribute his ovulated caviar within the EU, but in countries that fewer
problems with hormones in food production.
Hardening the egg shells
after taking the roe is far less of a problem for him. He says he does not need
Köhler's invention to do that: "Renowned and experienced sturgeon
farmers and profitable caviar businesses have known about these or similar
methods for many years." Thomas Bauer, the Managing Director of Vivace, and
the fourth head of Vivace in three years, argues that the "USP" of his
company is "excellent premium caviar from living fish."
bankruptcy of Vivace could also be unwelcome news for the Lower Saxony State
Agricultural Minister, Christian Meyer (Greens). Since he took office over two
years ago, he has made a name for himself nationwide as a campaigner against
industrial factory farming of livestock. The fact that his team could not find
anything wrong with approving commercial caviar production with hormones that
were not approved for that purpose does not make the minister look good.
Particularly as the Cuxhaven Veterinary Inspection Office observed during an
inspection that the facility was not compliant with animal rights restrictions.
aid money also appears to have been handled recklessly. The animal testing on
which the entire production is based was approved for two years. It is not known
whether the preparation is subsequently going to be permitted in Germany. When
the 667,000 reached Vivace, the company was already in critical financial
difficulties. The accounts were looking gloomy, employees were being laid off. "Sales
revenues and production costs bore no relation to one another," investor
Klaus Wecken complains.
These fish eggs were obviously not to the
tastes of customers, even if Managing Director Bauer raves to the SPIEGEL about
a "pearly, clean product that develops an aromatic scent."
Sepehr Dad, a caviar importer, sees it differently. He says Vivace sent three
samples to his company in Gauting, Bavaria. He returns a devastating verdict: "Vivace
caviar tastes like roe from fish that have been kept packed tightly together
with poor feed and terrible water quality."
Serious farmers invest
large amounts of money to wash away the luxury product's grubby image: they
counter accusations of mass factory farming of livestock with spacious pond fish
farms with natural flow channels, or they breed sturgeon offspring to repopulate
former spawning areas.
Vivace did nothing of the kind. The liquidator
is not going to make life any better for the animals - they may end up being
By Michael Fröhlingsdorf, Andrea Rehmsmeier
| ########## end of translation ©
2016 ########## |
from the original German text in the article
|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