Big travel of the Siberian sturgeon in Spain
The history of the company

A pearl of Sarrion, the company Perla de Sarrion was founded in August 2015.

From the interview of Nikita Nebylitskiy RBC:

«I did not even imagine, how that would look like to breed “meat sturgeons”. In Europe hardly anybody could tell me about that. (Note. If somebody breeds sturgeons here that is solely for roe, not for their meat). That is why I went to Dubna, Konakovo, where the first in the USSR sturgeon farm was situated».

According to the legend, one of the founding fathers (radio host and entrepreneur Nikita Nebylitskiy, living in Spain since 2013) wanted to try sturgeon one day. And he could not. There was no sturgeon in Catalonia. As well as in the whole Spain.

You could wave your hand and treat yourself with some sea bass. Or rush to Russia as a gastronomic tourist. But all that was for the weak in spirit inhabitants.

Nebylitskiy came down to the point radically:

He decided to open a sturgeon breeding farm and feed with them not only Catalonia with Spain, but neighbors in the European Union as well.

Nadezhda Kozavkova, the main fish-breeder of the Konakov Plant for sturgeon breeders back in 1979 found out, how to save the sturgeons from dying out and breed them in captivity. It was she who within 10 days helped compose a detailed guide for sturgeon breeding on an industrial scale. Provided by new knowledge, Nikita Nebylitskiy came back to Spain to look for an ideal place for the farm.

How did we choose the farm?

We found the place by accident, very nearly by giving an advertisement to the Iz Ruk V Ruki newspaper. In the neighborhood of Sarrion an old farm for trout breeding was rented.

By that moment it had stayed empty for almost 15 years.

Nebylitskiy and Kozavkova liked the place: there were two rivers, stone gorges, vegetations, and just large territory.

It became clear as soon as later how lucky they were.

The water temperature is extremely important to breed sturgeons. To make it grow quickly without hormones, the water should be +22-26˚. Yes, it grows well in the cold water as well. However, very and very slowly. It is inacceptable from the point of business.

The old trout farm stood on three rivers: the Albentos and the Mikhares with a temperature of +13-17˚, and the Orkaro, which is a warm underground river, with +20-22˚ all the year round. Having so much water with different temperatures, we get an ideal habitat for sturgeon breeding:

– In relative subglacial spawning school ovulation takes place;

– By 17˚ the roe turns into fish juveniles;

– At a temperature of 20-23˚ the sturgeon reaches the optimal weight equal to half a kilogram.

As a heritage we received rectangular basins with the current where the water circulates in a different way from typical sturgeon farms. The sturgeons are usually bred in round waterways with a low current speed. We decided to leave the basins as they were, and did not lose.

In the conditions of eternal motion, sturgeon meat becomes more resilient, and, naturally, less fat that is especially valued in the European market.

Saving waterways form and water circulation in them, the trout farm required radical reconstruction.

Within the next year Esturion de Sarrion:


– Improved hydroelectric power stations on launching two electro-turbines;

– Put through two pipe lines of warm water and two water pumps;

– Set the water purification system;

– Built defense system, oxygen stations, freezing chambers;

– Created the vegetation section and the section for fish processing.

So, the farm Esturion de Sarrion became first (and, for now, the only) in the whole Europe that breeds sturgeons in the current water. There are nine productions of this kind in the world all in all.

Why exactly Siberian sturgeon?

The modern science knows 17 sturgeon species. The Atlantic sturgeon is among them. Historically and geographically, it is, of course, much closer to Spain than the Siberian one. However, just at first sight.

Several arguments for the Siberian sturgeon:

– It is the tastiest “meat” breed. Much meat, little fats. And the fats, which is really critical for the European market, are not yellow.

– It is ideal for smoking. Sterlet is too dry. White and Amur sturgeons are too fat and fibrous.

– Siberian sturgeon, accustomed to the cold, grows at the speed many-fold higher than usual, which is important for the business.

Where did you take the roe for breeding?

There are extremely little specialists for sturgeon breeding in the whole world. All the more, those who are scrupulous about their job.

Work with the sturgeons becomes complicated, as they are really dying out not only because of anthropogenic factor, but in a natural, evolutionary way. Not only does their population in the nature decrease, close inbreeding also often happens in the farms because of scant amount of the genetic material. That is fraught with mutations, dwarfism and fruitlessness.

Good genealogic trees belong only to sturgeons in Konakovo, a couple of Ukrainian farms, France, and the German Pieter Gross, the best producer of vegetational roe for today.

Pieter Gross, namely, his company Fischzucht Rhonforelle, was first to sell the roe to Esturion de Sarrion. Under supervision of the specialists from Russia, Kazakhstan, and China, as well as Paulino Saez de Antoni, the Spanish technical ichthyologist, it became the basic sturgeon on the farm.

фото: Aaron DeLonay

How does the process from the roe-corn to a sturgeon look like?

This is how Nikita Nebylitskiy describes: “I have seen it many times… And despite that I take it as a miracle. Right in front of your eyes from some black, completely inanimate at first sight mass, within sixteen hours hundreds of thousands of small animate sturgeons are born.

And it is not important that there, above us, the complicated electronics always monitors the water temperature, independently from the season, to range from 14,4 to 14,6.

The oxygen is equal to precisely 8,4, and PH - precisely 7,5. Anyway, it takes my breath away when hardly noticeable juvenile fish begins to climb up the wall of the right flask. This is something described in Gerald Darrel’s book “Small Kangaroo Way”, read to rags.

But instead of mother kangaroo there is a half-meter long flask wall.

You, alive, tangibly, see the birth of a new life. This is a transit from the inanimate to animate!

If you look at this juvenile fish on the third day under the microscope, you cannot see it well with the naked eye, - it is a little bit more than one millimeter, and completely like a big sturgeon, with whiskers and a sharp nose. And very great in appearance”.

The process from a roe-corn to juvenile fish and then to an under-yearling lasts two weeks. Whereupon the sturgeon is welcome in the big warm waters where it reaches its optimal weight of 1,5 kg for a year.

What is the difference of Esturion de Sarrion from other sturgeon producers?

It is the only one in Europe that grows sturgeons in the current water. Think of the conditions as maximally close to natural.

What does it mean for a usual customer? This sturgeon is tastier!

Some unsavory details.

Saving those 9 farms with current water, the rest of sturgeon breeders use enclosed water supply facilities.

What is it? Those are closed basins, necessarily in the warm, provided with filters where water is the same. From the point of business, it is fine as you do not constantly need to warm up millions of tons of water, the fish grows without it. Moreover, there are filters. It seems there is nothing to worry about.

And there the second point comes in. Supporters of the enclosed facilities economize not only on the electric energy, but feed as well.

There is a concept such as the food coefficient – how much food should be given to the fish so that it gains a certain amount of weight. In the open water this coefficient is equal to 1,37. In other words, for our purposes, the fish has to eat 1370 g to gain 1000 g. However, the coefficient accounts for 1,17 in farms with enclosed water supply. Herewith, the fish will weigh the same amount on exit both from the open and closed waters.

Is it possible for the fish to eat less and grow better? No such luck. It eats the same amount. But the difference in 200 g is compensated by the own waste products.

That is why three months before the sale they just stop feeding the fish. Anyway, despite such a long hunger and full cleaning, the smell and taste of the sturgeon from the enclosed basin differ dramatically from the sturgeon in the current water.

Nevertheless, the wild sturgeon is tastier, isn’t it?

Firstly, according to the letter of the law, there is no wild sturgeon on sale and cannot be.

If you found one, it is likely to be at most a marketing way. Or this sturgeon is a victim of smugglers.

Sturgeon is dying out. Its population is decreasing in the nature. And if you buy the fish or roe from the smuggler, you automatically become the coparticipant of the nature destruction.

Secondly, it is dangerous to eat wild fish. It is organized in a way that it does not filter and get rid of dirt and stores it inside for the whole life. Heavy metals, radiation, sulfur, antimony – all this can find a place on your table. And as for wild fish, it is not known, what kind of dirt the fish has been eating for all its life and in what dirt it has been swimming. So, a wild sturgeon is always a lottery.

Many can argue that fish-breeding farms also cram into their fish all the mess, including antibiotics. Esturion de Sarrion can be responsible only for themselves.

– On our farm we do not use growth hormones – the fish grows by itself.

– On our farm we do not use antibiotics.

– Sanitary-epidemic services of Spain monitor the feed and water quality in artificial waterways on a daily basis.

That is why if you have a choice - wild, from the cage or an artificial waterway - choose the latter. Even if not from Esturion de Sarrion.

What plans do you have for the future?

In our plans there are two directions:

–  To grow into a trade house, where we will have products only from checked producers that lead their business according to the high standards as well as Esturion de Sarrion. What is more, it is not only about fish and sea products. Now our company considers the issue of truffles (The best black truffles grow in Sarrion!)


– To develop as producers of green electric energy. At the moment there are already two hydroelectric power stations. Their output is many times more than farm necessities, and the rests go on sale. Now Esturion de Sarrion chooses better alternatives to implement the sun and wind facilities.

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