Caviar

Caviar

Caviar

At a glance

Eco-rating Mercury Omega-3s
+-White sturgeon (wild, OR and WA)
OK
Unknown
High

MORE ABOUT WHITE STURGEON CAVIAR

White sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish in North America, growing up to six feet long (1.8 meters) and weighing up to a ton. White sturgeon were once widely distributed from Alaska to Central California, but populations are now severely depleted and large fish are very rare.

+-Paddlefish (farmed)
OK
Unknown
High

MORE ABOUT PADDLEFISH CAVIAR

Paddlefish, or "spoonbills," are an ancient species of fish closely related to sturgeons. Native to the Mississippi River drainage basin, paddlefish historically ranged as far east as New York and as far west as Montana. Paddlefish populations have been greatly reduced due to overfishing and habitat loss; in some states the species no longer exists.

Commercial Sources

Paddlefish are only naturally found in the United States. They have been introduced to several other nations but are not exported back to the U.S.

Capture Methods

In the past, paddlefish caviar was only available from the capture of wild fish. However, paddlefish farms are now in full-scale production and account for the majority of paddlefish caviar on the market.

+-White sturgeon (farmed)
OK
Unknown
High

MORE ABOUT WHITE STURGEON CAVIAR

White sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish in North America, growing up to six feet long (1.8 meters) and weighing up to a ton. White sturgeon were once widely distributed from Alaska to Central California, but populations are now severely depleted and large fish are very rare.

+-Lake sturgeon (wild, imported)
Worst
Unknown

MORE ABOUT LAKE STURGEON CAVIAR

Lake sturgeon are long-lived, bony fish that can reach up to five feet (1.5 meters) and 80 pounds. Sturgeon are often referred to as "living fossils," since they have remained largely unchanged for millions of years.

Commercial Sources

All lake sturgeon roe sold commercially is caught in Canada. Most U.S. states with lake sturgeon populations prohibit commercial harvests.

Capture Methods

Lake sturgeon are caught in Canada using gillnets. In Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago, a small recreational spear fishery still exists. The fish have not been commercially farmed to date.

+-Beluga sturgeon (wild, imported)
Worst
Unknown

MORE ABOUT BELUGA STURGEON CAVIAR

Beluga are an ancient species of fish that live in the Caspian Sea region. They can reach lengths of 15 feet (4.5 meters) and weigh over a ton. Beluga populations are on the brink of extinction due to overfishing and habitat loss. Beluga caviar, costing around $100 an ounce, is the main reason for the overexploitation of this species.

Commercial Sources

The main commercial sources of beluga are Iran and the former Soviet republics of Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

Capture Methods

Beluga are caught using gillnets. There has been no farmed beluga caviar production to date.

+-Sevruga (wild, imported)
Worst
Unknown
High

MORE ABOUT SEVRUGA CAVIAR

Stellate sturgeon are the smallest and most abundant sturgeon in the Caspian Sea and can also be found in the Azov and Black Seas. Fully grown, they can reach almost seven feet (2 meters) in length and weigh almost 200 pounds. The stellate's small gray eggs are sold as Sevruga caviar, one of the world's most prized caviars.

Commercial Sources

Stellate sturgeon are caught using gillnets. They are also farmed in Europe.

Capture Methods

Stellate sturgeon are caught using gillnets. They are also farmed in Europe, though mainly for meat production to date.

+-Paddlefish (wild)
Worst
Unknown
High

MORE ABOUT PADDLEFISH CAVIAR

Paddlefish, or "spoonbills," are an ancient species of fish closely related to sturgeons. Native to the Mississippi River drainage basin, paddlefish historically ranged as far east as New York and as far west as Montana. Paddlefish populations have been greatly reduced due to overfishing and habitat loss; in some states the species no longer exists.

COMMERCIAL SOURCES

Paddlefish are only naturally found in the United States. They have been introduced to several other nations but are not exported back to the U.S.

CAPTURE METHODS

In the past, paddlefish caviar was only available from the capture of wild fish. However, paddlefish farms are now in full-scale production and account for the majority of paddlefish caviar on the market.

+-Osetra (wild, imported)
Worst
Unknown
High

MORE ABOUT OSETRA CAVIAR

Russian sturgeon, highly valued for their gray-brown Osetra caviar, live in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. These bony fish can be over 6 feet (2 meters) long and weigh as much as 250 pounds. Caviar demand is driving Russian sturgeon populations to possible extinction.

Commercial Sources

Endangered Russian sturgeon are caught in the Caspian Sea by Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iran. There is some farmed production throughout Europe.

Capture Methods

Russian sturgeon are caught using gillnets. Russian sturgeon farms have started in Europe and Russia, though production has been limited to date.

Recommended servings per month

Contaminant Men Women Kids 6-12 Kids 0-5
Paddlefish (farmed) Unknown 4 4 4 4
White sturgeon (farmed) Unknown 4 4 4 4
Osetra (wild, imported) Unknown 4 4 4 4
Lake sturgeon (wild, imported) Unknown 4 4 4 4
Beluga sturgeon (wild, imported) Unknown 4 4 4 4
Sevruga (wild, imported) Unknown 4 4 4 4
White sturgeon (wild, OR and WA) Unknown 4 4 4 4
Paddlefish (wild) Unknown 4 4 4 4
Eco details: 
  • Enormous international demand for caviar has significantly depleted most wild sturgeon and paddlefish populations worldwide.
  • Caviar from the Caspian region (Beluga, Osetra, Sevruga) is particularly prized, and illegal poaching and habitat degradation have driven many of these sturgeon species to the brink of extinction.
  • Caviar from farmed white sturgeon and paddlefish is an eco-friendly and less expensive alternative.
  • Small numbers of white sturgeon are fished in Washington and Oregon, where management helps to curb overfishing of this long-lived species.