Vietnam makes breakthrough in breeding Russian sturgeon

When it comes to aquaculture, people usually think of coastal regions or the Mekong Delta where shrimp and pangasius earn revenues of upto tens of billions annually. However, recently people found mountainous regions in the North and the highland provinces as suitable for breeding Russian sturgeon, a fish variety of high economic value in the world.

Russian experts prepare to harvest black caviar from Russian sturgeon that was raised in Da Mi hydropower reservoir in the central province of Binh Thuan (Photo: SGGP)

In 2008, Russian sturgeon was bred in the Da Mi hydropower reservoir in the central province of Binh Thuan adjacent to the highland province of Lam Dong.

The breeding of this fish was a real breakthrough as the fish grows quickly. It takes 8 to 10 years for the fish to weigh 15 kilograms in Russia but it takes only 4 to 5 years in Vietnam.

Le Anh Duc, Chairman of Vietnam Sturgeon Group, said sturgeons grow faster in Vietnam because the weather is warmer than in Russia.

Breeding in highly controlled environment in fresh water means that farmed caviar can be of as good quality as that in the wild in the Caspian or Lagoda Lake in Russia.

Currently, Tam Long Da Mi Company, under the Vietnam Sturgeon Group, raised over 200 tons of sturgeon in 200 facilities. With its success in breeding, propagating sturgeon and harvesting caviar, the Vietnam Sturgeon Group decided to invest VND300 billion ($14 million) building labs, freezers and processing factories.

Moreover, the Group expanded breeding facilities to the central province of Binh Dinh, the highlands province of Dak Lak and the northern province of Son La.

At present, sturgeon flesh consumed is 1,000 tons a year in big cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hanoi. Le Anh Duc said the price will be lower a few years later when more households in mountainous regions take to breeding of this fish.

On the other hand, breeders understand that selling of sturgeon flesh is not the aim. The price of white caviar is US$1,700 per kilogram, Siberi caviar $2,800 a kilogram, Kaluga is $5,800 a kilogram, and Russian caviar $12,000 a kilogram. In 2012, the group harvested around 1 ton, just enough for some five-star restaurants in the country.

Le Anh Duc said Russian holidaymakers are very fond of having the fish when in Nha Trang City in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa.

In addition, due to rampant overfishing in the Caspian Lake, the supply can barely meet demand in the world. Therefore, exporters from European countries have come to Vietnam to study breeding procedures in natural environment.

The group has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with France and Russia to sell black caviar to the two countries by late 2013 or mid 2014.

Russian sturgeon experts said that Vietnam could well become Asia’s sturgeon supplier as the group raises the fish as per Global Gap Standards that offer good quality fish.

By Cong Phien - Translated by Bao Long

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