News / Asia

South Korea Emerges as Unlikely Source of Caviar

The unfertilized eggs of the sturgeon have made the fish one of the world’s most valuable wildlife resources. Some 90 percent of the world’s caviar comes from sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, but uncontrolled fishing after the collapse of the Soviet Union has greatly reduced wild populations.

While nations around the Caspian (Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iran) have agreed to ban sturgeon fishing, entrepreneurs elsewhere in the world are working on sustainable ways to harvest the expensive roe.

In Chungju, South Korea, one patient entrepreneur is claiming a 10-percent share of the global production of farmed caviar.

Along the banks of the Southern Han River, 50,000 captive sturgeon have found an ideal home.


The fish belong to former economist Han Sang Hun who, 17 years ago, brought a few hundred sturgeon back with him from a business trip to Russia.   “I believe that there is no other place that can provide an abundant amount of the right water for sturgeon. The river’s level stays fairly constant here. So these waters are the ideal environment," he said.

One particular species of sturgeon swimming in these waters is the albino. And, its eggs are particularly precious.  When they are put into cans like this one and auctioned in London they have fetched up to $40,000 per kilo.

“To produce superior caviar, the fish need to hibernate in water cooler than six degrees Celsius for 45 days during the winter," said Han Sung Hun.

Such attention to detail, spanning years of trial and error and patiently waiting more than a decade for the sturgeon to grow large enough, have allowed Han's fish farm to prosper.

The Korean caviar is harvested without harming the fish.

In other countries, the ancient and critically endangered beluga, which can grow to several meters in length, and live up to 150 years, are stunned or killed to find out if they have a stash of the lucrative eggs.

“Some [Russians] poke the fish with a screwdriver to see if they are ready to spawn and then drag the roe out. We do not need to do that because we discovered by accident how to feel their bellies to determine if they are ready to produce," said Han.

Han says he does not worry about potential competitors, whether they are in his back yard, where others have already tried and failed, or from other countries. Global conservation measures, strictly regulating exports, combined with an insatiable appetite among the wealthy, will keep demand for caviar far outpacing the supply.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs