• Kyodo

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A company affiliated with the city of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, is preparing to breed sturgeon in a local facility and sell homegrown caviar.

Officials of the company, Sunrock, said their operation marks the first time a consistent mechanism from the rearing of the fish — a large ganoid freshwater and marine fish with edible flesh — to the sale of its roe will be employed in Japan.

The sturgeon will be bred in an idle Nippon Steel Corp. water tank 20 meters long and 10 meters wide which was originally intended to clean waste water.

The use of Nippon Steel’s tank is far cheaper than creating a new drainage facility and would also make effective use of the tank, the Sunrock officials said.

Although it is not difficult to breed sturgeon, about eight years is needed to produce eggs due to the fish’s slow development and the technology required for artificial breeding.

Distribution of sturgeon has been regulated since it was designated as an endangered species in 1997 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in the wake of overfishing in its major breeding area in the Caspian Sea.

The Sunrock officials say the retail price of naturally grown caviar is now four times what it was before the regulations took effect, and that 1 kg costs around 150,000 yen.

Sunrock deals with the eggs of the bester, a hybrid sturgeon. By fall, it intends to sell small amounts of the product to restaurants, inns and other establishments in the Tohoku region.

The officials said initial production will be several dozen kilograms a year, and they are aiming to produce several tons of caviar in the future. A kilogram is expected to cost around 100,000 yen.

Caviar is the roe of a large fish, especially sturgeon, that is salted, seasoned and eaten as a delicacy or relish.

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