Sturgeon stocks on extreme worldwide decline

People have been consuming black caviar since about 500 B.C., but it may be time to curb the habit: Global stocks of sturgeon, the fish that supplies the salty treat, are in trouble. In a new study published this week in the journal Fish and Fisheries, marine researchers report that nearly every sturgeon population worldwide is either severely depleted or on the brink of extinction. Lawful catches have plummeted to about 15 percent of their peak 30 years ago. Sturgeon stocks have a relatively slow reproductive cycle — spawning only every three or four years and taking about 15 years to reach reproductive maturity — so they’re especially vulnerable to overfishing. And they’re particularly difficult to fish-farm, so preserving wild stocks is probably the only way to keep the world’s foodies supplied with the ne plus ultra of fish eggs. Says Ellen Pikitch, the study’s lead researcher, “I could not recommend that people eat caviar from any wild population of sturgeon.”