Chhimi Dema 

Caviar, the eggs or roe of Sturgeon or other fish preserved with salt, is considered one of the most expensive delicacies in the world.

A kilogramme of Beluga sturgeon can cost up to USD 3,500 in the global market today.

Considering its market and potential for export value, the Department of Livestock under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests initiated the Bhutan Sturgeon Farm at Harachhu in Athang, Wangdue.

The Sturgeon Farm was previously the Mahseer Conservation and Fish Monitoring Centre.

Sturgeons, the common name for the 27 species of fish belonging to the Acipenseridae family, are long-lived and late-maturing fishes (seven to 10 years for sturgeon to mature).

The sturgeon farm was started at the National Research Centre for Riverine and Lake Fisheries in Haa in 2016 as a trial to study the feasibility to rear sturgeon in the country.

The centre’s programme director, Singye Tshering, said that caviar is a lucrative product with export potential. “This export could positively impact the balance of trade.”

Bhutan Sturgeon Farm at Harachhu

The centre, in 2016, got Siberian sturgeon eggs from Thailand for hatchery and nursery rearing. There are 404 Siberian sturgeon on the farm currently.

Serbian Sturgeon’s caviar will fetch USD 1,500 for a kg in the global market.

Singye Tshering said that the centre was successful in hatching and rearing the fish until today. “This shows that it is feasible to rear the fish on a commercial level.”

He said that they are also working to introduce two new species of sturgeon–Beluga and Russian sturgeon on the farm.

On December 13, a project for the construction of water supply for the farm was launched at Harachhu in Athang, Wangdue.

The five-month project is implemented under a partnership of the livestock department and De-suung Office.

The project would provide  reliable water supply for the farm.

Singye Tshering said that comparatively, the fish is growing two times better on Harachhu farm than in Haa. Caviar will be harvested next year.

He added that the farm is targeting to produce 1.5 to 2 metric tonnes of caviar in the future with a revenue target of  Nu 200 million annually.

Singye Tshering said that as it takes seven to 10 years for sturgeon to mature, after eight years there would be a full-functioning sturgeon farm.