Monday, July 30, 2012

The Israeli fish that lay golden eggs

Super-expensive Karat caviar, coveted by restaurateurs in several countries, starts out in river-fed ponds in the Galilee.
Yigal Ben-Tzvi with sturgeon at Kibbutz Dan.
Think “caviar” and the Caspian Sea probably comes to mind along with Russia and maybe Iran. Well, think again. Because some of the finest caviar in the world today originates from ponds at Kibbutz Dan in Israel.

It all started with a business trip to Russia in 1992. Aquaculturists Yigal Ben-Tzvi and Avshalom Hurvitz, who grew up on Kibbutz Dan and run its fish farms, bought some prized Osetra sturgeon eggs to hatch for the growing Israeli population of Russian immigrants who love this variety of fish.

At the time, harvesting the fish’s precious eggs was not on their agenda. Russia and Iran had that market cornered. But when the United Nations declared wild sturgeon endangered in 2003, Ben Tzvi and Hurvitz decided to go for it even though that entailed holding onto their stock of fish for about another six years until they reached the peak age. It was a good decision, because in 2006 the export of all wild sturgeon caviar from the Caspian and Black seas was banned.

The little Galilean kibbutz just had to wait until 2009 to conquer the market. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21c

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