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With Sturgeon Endangered, Sacramento Becoming Focal Point For Caviar Production

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A high-end delicacy is in danger of swimming off the menu, but Sacramento is playing a vital role in turning the tide.

The sturgeon harvested for caviar are now endangered, but a local company is raising them sustainably and offering new hope for California’s drought.

A small tin of sturgeon eggs, or black caviar, can cost a couple of thousand dollars. And when you’re Sterling Caviar in Sacramento, the largest producer of farmed sturgeon in the world, that can bring in a lot of money.

Overfishing sturgeon in the wild has led to a fishing ban that has created a demand for caviar.

“Most people are already switching their concept and getting used to the farmed caviar,” said Shaoching Bishop, managing director at Sterling Caviar.

The sturgeon live on the farm for at least seven years until they are big enough, about 100 pounds, and ready to harvest. But this business relies heavily on water that’s in short supply in California’s drought.

Production manager Bobby Renschler says the 1.5 million gallons of water on the farm is all recycled.

“We recirculate the water five times for every one time of new water that comes into the system,” he said.

And a sophisticated filtration system cleans the water so well, it can even be sold to others.

“The water is a main source of water for a wetlands preserve behind our facility that didn’t even exist before when our farm was created here,” he said.

The water-wise business has put Sacramento on the map as the new caviar capital of the world. The company produced 10 to 12 tons of caviar per year.

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