Fishy Business In Jackson County - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Fishy Business In Jackson County

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If you count all the fish in every tank at Sturgeon AquaFarms, you'll be here a while.

"We probably have over 100,000 fish," says Mark Zaslavsky, founder of the farm, which has 4 different species of sturgeon, all native to Russia.

"It's not a job, it's not work, its something you do because you love to do it," says Zaslavsky. 

Zaslavsky is also from Russia and currently lives in Miami, where he also owns a gourmet food market and sells caviar among other delicacies. 

About 12 years ago, he founded Sturgeon AquaFarms to begin breeding the sturgeon and ultimately produce his own caviar.

"It was obvious in the 90's that the lack of caviar [that] was coming from Russia there was obviously poaching and environmental disasters," says Zaslavsky."And we thought the future of the caviar business was not good, so we took initiative in our hands."

He brought shipments of sturgeon from Europe over to Miami over a decade ago and in the last three years, moved the operation to the small community of Bascom, because northern Florida offered ideal weather conditions.

"Fish will grow here three and half times faster here than in native Russia," says Zaslavsky.

Carlos Orozco, a biologist who works for Sturgeon AquaFarms, says it's the only aqua culture facility to be home to the four native sturgeon species from Russia.

"Today we are probably the most largest beluga farm in the world," says Zaslavsky. Beluga sturgeon are dwindling in the Caspian Sea and Russian scientists tell Zaslavsky that there are probably more on his farm than in the Caspian Sea. 

Within the next 6 months, Sturgeon Aqua Farms plans to finally produce caviar. 

Within the next few years, the facility's founder plans to retire and live on the farm in Bascom.