MIYAZAKI – Miyazaki Prefecture is trying to carve out a new market for locally farmed white sturgeon.
The prefecture expects the popularity of this luxury whitefish — known by most people only for its caviar — to reach the same heights as its high-end mangoes. Officials are aiming to boost the market for the meat and caviar to a combined ¥10 billion.
While white sturgeon’s Japanese name, “shirochozame,” might lead some people to think it’s a member of the shark (“same” in Japanese) family, there is no relation. According to the Miyazaki government, this means white sturgeon meat is free of the ammonia smell that sharks are infamous for.
The meat is also considered better tasting than bester, a sturgeon hybrid, and is a prized delicacy in Europe and China, Miyazaki officials said. Bester is a crossbreed between the sterlet and beluga and has been cultivated since ancient times.
Meat of farmed sturgeon has a firm texture and a mild flavor, the officials said.
The branch of the Miyazaki Prefectural Fisheries Research Institute in the city of Kobayashi bought white sturgeon from local fish harvesters in 1991.
Researchers, focusing on the relationship between water temperatures and aquaculture, succeeded in 2011 in creating the ideal environment for large-scale, full-cycle farming of juvenile fish.
This has allowed the institute to offer a stable yearly supply of 20,000 fish to harvesters in Miyazaki Prefecture.
Currently, 19 fish farms in Miyazaki Prefecture have 35,000 white sturgeons in tanks and in 2012 managed to ship 2 tons at a price of ¥2,000 per kilogram.
The prefecture intends to increase the shipped volume to several hundred tons a year.
Miyazaki officials are thinking beyond the meat market. The prefecture aims to take a share of the caviar business as well. Miyazaki fish farmers have started sales of sturgeon caviar, getting off the ground with an initial shipment of 50 kg last November.
Meanwhile, sturgeon sashimi has grown popular among locals, gracing restaurant menus in the city of Kobayashi, as part of a prefectural revitalization project. The dish is served with “ponzu,” the citrus-based soy sauce common in Japanese cuisine made from sake, rice vinegar, “katsuobushi,” or bonito fish flakes, and seaweed.
White sturgeon has also been added to the menu at a restaurant in Phoenix Seagaia Resort in the city of Miyazaki.