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Is Caviar Illegal? All About The U.S. Caviar Ban

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Caviar is a luxurious food often associated with high society. This sought-after dish can only be harvested from specific species of sturgeon and must be treated, stored, and distributed properly to preserve its quality. 

Humans have consumed this delicacy for decades, and actions like overfishing and unsustainable farming methods have led to certain caviar bans in the United States. This is a breakdown of why caviar was banned in the U.S. and what caviar is banned. Explore the fascinating history of caviar below, as well as the intricacies of the caviar ban in the U.S.

The History of Caviar

The ancient Greeks first identified sturgeon eggs as a delicacy and used them to celebrate important events as early as the 4th century BCE. Sturgeon roe was also harvested in ancient Persia, and it was the Persians who first called the roe "khavyar" — or "egg." 

During the late 19th century, Russian tsars introduced an interesting new delicacy to their menus: salt-cured roe, harvested from pointy-nosed female sturgeon from the Caspian Sea. Due to the scarcity and limited supply of the species, the dish soon became a luxury that only the rich could afford and gain access to. One century later, when the Russian aristocracy fled to France, they introduced the elite of France to this expensive and unique dish.

The Russians were the ones who popularized the way caviar is cured, which gives it the delicate and subtle flavors it's known for today. However, the Persians were actually the first to cure sturgeon roe. 

Caviar exploded in popularity in the United States after Hendry Schacht founded his caviar business in 1873. However, by 1910, the demand for caviar led to overfishing, which made sturgeon almost extinct in the U.S. Production halted, and caviar became a luxury item in the U.S. because of how difficult it was to obtain. 

There was also a sturgeon shortage in the Caspian Sea in the 1990s, which led to more regulations on caviar fishing and resulted in caviar becoming even more of a luxury item. 

Sustainable fish farming practices have emerged in recent years to make this delicacy that has piqued the curiosity of humans for hundreds of years more accessible. 

Is Caviar Illegal in the United States? 

Yes and no. Many luxurious varieties of caviar — including Kaluga roe and Ossetra roe — are legal in the United States. However, perhaps the most highly soft-after variety of caviar is illegal in the U.S.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service banned Beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea in 2005. This meant Beluga caviar could not be produced, distributed or farmed in the U.S.

Why Was Caviar Banned in the US?

While Beluga caviar was once sold for pennies in the United States, overfishing caused Beluga sturgeon to make the endangered species list. The ban was introduced in an attempt to save Beluga sturgeon from extinction. 

Beluga caviar remains illegal in the United States to this day, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspects all caviar that enters the U.S. to ensure it is labeled correctly and does not contain Beluga. 

International Laws on Caviar

The animal protection arm of the United Nations followed suit and halted the worldwide caviar trade in early 2006. The ban aimed to curb poaching and encourage more sustainable caviar harvesting. For nations to continue exporting wild sturgeon products, they had to prove their efforts to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES). 

The U.N. lifted the trade ban on Beluga caviar one year later, in 2007. 

The Importance of Sustainably Farmed Caviar 

Despite these bans, there's hope for the future of caviar. Caviar farmers have begun raising sturgeon more sustainably to meet the high demand while protecting the delicate ecosystem. 

At Imperia Caviar, we source high-quality caviar from partner farms across the globe. These pristine farms mimic a natural growing environment, which gives our caviar an exquisite taste. The farms we work with use responsible harvesting practices that involve extracting the roe without killing the fish. This helps protect sturgeon, especially those that are endangered. The process looks like this:

  1. Preparation: Days before harvest, an ovulating sturgeon is injected with a hormone to separate the eggs from the membranous sac. This helps the eggs come out easily. 
  2. Removal: The farmer removes the fish via C-section or vivace, which imitates a natural delivery. 

Sustainably farming caviar takes extra effort and time, but it also makes caviar more accessible and able to be enjoyed by more people. Educating the public about the importance of sustainable caviar harvesting will lead to more care, effort, and understanding. Raising awareness of environmental and ecological issues is a reliable way of gaining more support and giving purpose to a noble cause. When people know how essential something like this is, they are more likely to take action and be more aware.

Experience the Joys of Responsibly and Sustainably Grown Caviar

At Imperia Caviar, we love caviar, and we know the best way to continue enjoying it is to procure it in the right way. Keeping the environment and the species we harvest our caviar from as safe as possible while still being able to appreciate this delectable treat is our top priority.

Imperia Caviar offers a host of exquisite caviar sourced from high-quality and trustworthy caviar farms, including Kaluga Hybrid Reserve caviar and Royal Ossetra caviar

We are also passionate about the caviar experience and want everyone to be able to enjoy caviar properly and get the most out of the delicacy. Our online library of resources will teach you all about the amazing world of caviar, how to fully immerse yourself in the experience, and why this delicacy is so unique. 

The best part about experiencing caviar is the more you know about it, the better it becomes. That's why we have a blog dedicated to informing our readers and customers about the intricacies of this enthralling and legendary delicacy.

For high-quality and sustainably sourced caviar, explore our online store today. Aside from our caviar varieties, we also offer caviar gift sets, complete with caviar keys, utensils, and samples perfect for tasting. If you're eager to discover a delightful world of caviar, trust Imperia Caviar to provide you with an authentic and high-quality experience.

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