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Considering the taste sensation it gives, caviar comes from a most unlikely place: the muddy and dark, green-brown water of the Caspian Sea. It is harvested from the belly of the sturgeon, a fish so lacking in grace and good lines that it resembles a poorly-armored, slimy submarine. “Ah, but caviar,” a noted food historian writes, “in the nature of things, must be a rarity, or it does not fulfill its function.” So for centuries it has been sought, and fought over, carefully packed in special crates, and sent around the world, where it is drawn from an elegant server, delicately spread on toast, perhaps with butter, and savored.

Such reverence, though, has lead to excess, less in the consuming than the hunting, and now the finest caviar, the beluga variety, is so rare, it’s on the verge of extinction.


Inga Saffron, author, “Caviar: The Strange History and Uncertain Future of the World’s Most Coveted Delicacy”

Armen Petrossian, president and CEO, Petrossian, SA

Lisa Speer, senior policy analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council and spokeswoman, Caviar Emptor

Eugene Lapointe, former Secretary-General, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species