Most caviar, especially the high-end stuff, comes from sturgeons, long-lived fish that die when their eggs are forcibly removed. It can fairly be said that eating caviar is unsustainable at best, since sturgeons are the most critically endangered group of animals, with 85 percent of sturgeon species at risk of extinction. When German researcher Angela Köhler visited an Iranian caviar facility a few years back, she came face-to-face with a 30-year-old, 10-foot-long sturgeon that was being “harvested,” as reported by Civil Eats:
That came as a shock, and helped inspire Köhler to find a way to harvest caviar without killing sturgeon. She spent 9-years developing a system in which sturgeon’s eggs can be “massaged” out of them to produce “no-kill caviar,” or “cruelty-free caviar,” as NPR reported:
Some are skeptical that no-kill caviar will take off. Geno Evans, a caviar producer in Florida, said the method produces “mushy” eggs, although Köhler’s method gets around that with a chemical treatment. This treatment improves the texture, said Deborah Keane, owner of the California Caviar Company, in Sausalito, Calif., which is currently the only American importer of Vivace no-kill caviar.