The white sturgeon is a pre-historic California native responsible for spawning a niche farming operation putting the state on the map as producers of high quality caviar. California, farm raised, caviar now rivals the quality traditionally found in the mega-dollar offerings half a world away out of the Caspian Sea. The collapse of the beluga caviar fishery in the Caspian, however, has fueled demand for a replacement source of the tiny eggs, and thanks to some ingenuity of two sturgeon farms, California caviar production has matured into an industry now labeled as California’s black gold. The collapse of the Caspian has helped another sturgeon-centric operation to mature in California; thieves targeting the wild stock to cash in on the unlimited demand.
California Heartland’s John Lobertini goes behind the scenes of both sturgeon stories. He catches up with Warden Patrick Foy of California’s Department of Fish and Game who shows us why California is a prime source of caviar — and why it’s become a legal matter and how law enforcement is handling the situation. Then we’ll visit Sterling Caviar in Elverta, California and see what goes into premium caviar production.