Imported wild-caught white sturgeon, shovelnose sturgeon and paddlefish are ranked "Avoid". White sturgeon caught in the lower Columbia River is a "Good Alternative."
Sturgeon: White, Beluga, Russian, Stellate
Environmental Defense Fund has issued a consumption advisory for wild imported sturgeon due to elevated levels of mercury and PCBs.
The demand for caviar has depleted most of the world's wild sturgeon populations. Caviar is the salted eggs or "roe" of sturgeon. Some of the world's best caviar comes from the Caspian Sea and is imported from Iran, Russia and Turkey. The U.S. also has wild sturgeon - white and shovelnose (also known as hackleback) and paddlefish that are harvested for their eggs. These are all ranked "Avoid."
Sturgeon and paddlefish are long-lived, slow-growing fish that reproduce late in life, traits that make them vulnerable to overfishing. In addition, fishery management is weak and many sturgeon are caught illegally. This, combined with water pollution and habitat loss due to dams, has further impacted sturgeon and paddlefish populations and some are at risk of extinction.
Most farmed sturgeon in the U.S. is raised in environmentally friendly farms, where the fish are completely enclosed in tanks and waste water can be treated.
The sturgeon of the Caspian Sea, a traditional source of caviar, is nearing extinction. There are very few commercial fisheries left in the U.S. for sturgeon because of historic overfishing and depleted populations. One of the few well-managed wild sturgeon fisheries is located in the lower Columbia River in Washington and Oregon. However, even this population is vulnerable to overfishing.