New Brunswick

Breviro Caviar seeks legal change to sell in the United States

A New Brunswick caviar company is petitioning the United States government to lift restrictions that prevent the sale of its product south of the border.

Shortnose sturgeon are endangered in the United States

Jonathan Barry, the president of Breviro Caviar, shows where his company raises shortnose sturgeon. (Deborah Irvine-Anderson/CBC)

A New Brunswick caviar company is petitioning the United States government to lift restrictions that prevent the sale of its product south of the border.

Breviro Caviar raises shortnose sturgeon in tanks at its headquarters in Pennfield.

Shortnose sturgeon is considered an endangered species in the United States and there is a prohibition of any product from the fish being marketed in the country.

Under a 1967 ruling, the United States government places Canadian sturgeon in the same bracket as their endangered cousins across the border.

The rule does not distinguish between fish from the wild and farm-raised fish.

Jonathan Barry shows where his company raises its shortnose sturgeon: on land and in tanks.

"There are about 8,000 fish out here right now,” he said.

Breviro's website says it is the only captive-breeding facility in the world that is licensed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to raise these fish.

Breviro's sturgeon is genetically linked to St. John River sturgeon.

The company is asking the U.S. government to recognize that fish as a distinct population, different from its endangered American cousins.

Matthew Litvak, a biology professor at Mount Allison University, who specializes in conservation and aquaculture, said the St. John River sturgeon is not only a unique population.

He said it is also a healthy and stable population of fish.

"What you have here is you have a situation where you have a species in Canada that's not endangered whereas in the [United States], it's viewed as endangered,” he said.

He also said the New Brunswick sturgeon population is separate from those in the United States.

"The number of migrants per generation is so, so low that come to the St. John [River] population from anywhere else,” he said.

The Endangered Species Division of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service will make a decision on the Breviro petition within the next year.

Angela Somma, the chief of endangered species for the U.S. Marine Fisheries Service, said the government agency must take various factors into consideration when making its decision

"It's very difficult at times to distinguish what's been cultured, what's a captive-bred animal, versus an animal from the wild,” she said.