They can be recognized by the five rows of boney plates on their bodies and sharklike tails. The Beluga is considered a "living fossil." It can measure 20 feet or more, reach up to 2,200 pounds in weight, and can live a hundred years. It requires 20 years to reach adulthood and begin producing eggs (roe.)
The Beluga is anadramous and migrates up fresh water rivers to spawn. During the course of its life a Beluga sturgeon will produce hundreds of pounds of eggs (caviar) and during the spawn, the amount of eggs can equal up to 15% of total body weight producing anywhere from 300,000 thousand to more than 4 million eggs. If a sturgeon is stressed, it can actually reabsorb its eggs and lose a spawning cycle.
The construction of dams, irrigation, and silting of spawning places have almost eliminated spawning runs on many rivers. The Beluga is found in the Caspian, Azov, and Adriatic Seas as well as the Dneper and Danube rivers with 85% being found in the Caspian.
The Beluga is so rare that the average annual catch is only 100 fish worldwide.
Each type of caviar, regardless of where it comes from, also has its own staunch supporters. While Beluga caviar is the most expensive, the expense is related to 'rarity' and not necessarily to 'being the best. Many of the world's chefs, and other consumers, prefer the flavor of Osetra caviar or Sevruga caviar to that of Beluga caviar regardless of price. It is all a matter of personal taste. Paying a higher price just for the 'name' of a particular sturgeon caviar variety may not always mean your taste buds would have done the same. Remember, price does not always reflect quality and better taste, it often only reflects rarity.
Buy: Iranian Beluga Caviar, Russian Beluga Caviar
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