Last Thursday I organised a trip inland to visit a fish farm which grows both rainbow trout and, more interestingly, sturgeon from which they obtain caviar.

The caviar, not unexpectedly, does not come cheap. A kilo will set you back 2500 euros and a tiddly little 10g can costs 25 euros.

Caviar eating is a rich man´s game and I will leave the well heeled to get on with knocking back the stuff. I am far more interested in the sturgeon themselves.

Commercially, the fish are valuable mainly because of the caviar which is harvested from the females when they are 18 years old. Unfortunately the quality caviar can only be obtained by sacrificing the fish and between 3 and 5 percent of the female´s weight will be the eggs. The males are needed only for reproducing and so, at the age of eight, when ultrasound scanning can determine the sex, the males and females are separated. The girls are grown on to produce caviar while the vast majority of the males are killed and eaten.

This particular species of  sturgeon,Acipenser naccarii,  is native to the Mediterranean and Adriatic. It is a river fish which is found in Albania, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegra and Slovemia. I believe it is no longer found in the river Po where it was once abundant and, sadly, it is rare in much of its natural range on account of overfishing.

They have been growing sturgeon in Riofrio for 50 years and are very proud of their fish. The success of the fish farming operation is largely down to the quality of the water which comes from a source close to the town. It has a regular flow throughout the year and its temperature remains constant. There is nothing added to the water – no antibiotics or hormones. As a result, the fish farm enjoys the status of an “organic” fish farm and is inspected annually to ensure it complies with the regulations.

The fish farm is located in the town of Riofrío, through which a river of the same name flows. The town is famous for its fresh fish and punters bus in from Granada to eat in one of the 14 restaurants.

You can fish the river for trout if you want. I did this a couple of times a few years ago. The rainbows are just tipped into a few pools in the river a couple of times a week from the local fish farms. In the end, the idea of fishing for these things just didn´t sit right with me and I gave up. I would rather chase after something wild even if I fail to catch anything. Some time ago, before the advent of intensive fish farming, the river was known to produce fine wild browns. I think we can only dream of them now.

After we had a tour of the fish farm we ate a menu del día at one of the local restaurants. I am too poor to eat sturgeon, and caviar is way out of my league, but the trucha a la plancha was a worthy alternative.

Rainbow trout

Rainbow trout

A couple of sturgeon  swimming around

A couple of sturgeon swimming around

Last year the fish farm here produced around 4000 kg of caviar - worth a few bob!

Last year the fish farm here produced around 4000 kg of caviar – worth a few bob!

Mysefl and my glamorous Biology students (from left to right Merel, Sarah and Miranda)
Myself and my glamorous Biology students (from left to right – Merel, Sarah and Miranda)