Fish Kept in Tiny Tanks, Cut Open for Caviar


3 min read

An investigation by Animal Justice into the caviar industry reveals what PETA has been saying all along: the true cost of this expensive “dish” is extreme cruelty. In the world’s first caviar farm exposé and Canada’s first fish farm investigation, Animal Justice found filthy tanks and workers slicing fish open at Northern Divine Aquafarms—a self-proclaimed “sustainable” and “organic” caviar farm.

worker shooting sturgeon with captive bolt gun as seen in animal justice caviar farm investigation

The damning investigative footage revealed the following:

  • Sturgeons and salmon trapped in crowded, dirty tanks
  • Workers stabbing fish repeatedly in the abdomen to check for egg maturity
  • Workers sucking eggs out of fish with a straw-like tube
  • Fish with deformities and injuries
  • Workers throwing fish on ice and freezing them to death
  • Workers cutting fish open while they were still alive

Sturgeons, one of the oldest species groups on the planet, are now endangered due to the fishing industry and the caviar trade. These fascinating fish are capable of complex learning behavior and are known to leap out of the water to communicate with others.

Misery at a Caviar Aquafarm

Northern Divine Aquafarms allegedly keeps female sturgeons alive in tiny tanks for at least 11 years until they’re old enough to produce caviar eggs. According to staff at the facility, some sturgeons who apparently attempted to escape from their tanks remained suffocating on the floor hours later.

To check whether their eggs are ready to be sold as caviar, workers force the animals onto a stretcher, stab them in the abdomen, insert a tube, and suck out the eggs with their mouths. Workers apparently do all of this without giving the fish any pain relief.

About 38 fish at the facility—including a 7-foot sturgeon named Gracie, who has reportedly been suffering in a tank there for at least 25 years—are used as breeding machines. Workers routinely cut their eggs out of their bodies to breed more sturgeons.

Before slaughtering the fish for their eggs, the facility reportedly starves them for weeks to “improve the taste.” Then, workers shoot and kill them with a captive-bolt gun.

Northern Divine Aquafarms also exploits salmon for their eggs, known as “roe” or “ikura.”Salmon are curious and intelligent and have impressive long-term memories. In nature, young salmon learn the smell of their home stream. After maturing in the ocean, a female salmon will return to where she was born to lay her eggs.

At Northern Divine Aquafarms, salmon spend their lives in small, miserable tanks before humans slaughter them for their eggs. Animal Justice investigators reportedly saw workers throwing conscious salmon onto ice and leaving them there for over an hour before beating the animals over the head with a metal club and then cutting them open. According to the investigation, many fish writhed in agony when workers sliced them open.

Fishes’ Eggs Belong to Them—Not Humans

When we dive deep into the complex lives of fish, we learn that these animals have distinct personalities, types of behavior, ways of communicating, and needs. Some species of fish sing or create artwork to impress potential partners. Some use tools to access food or communicate. As unique as these individuals are, they share one crucial thing in common with humans and our fellow animals: the capacity to suffer. Every fish is someone and does not want to be exploited and killed for their eggs or flesh.

YOU Can Spare Fish by Never Buying Caviar and Going Vegan

Sustainable, delicious vegan seafood brands dominate the market and don’t cause fish to suffer. PETA Business Friends’ fish-free options—like Cavi-art’s vegan caviar and ZeaStar’s sashimi—allow you to keep cruelty off your plate and taste great. So what are you waiting for? Choose compassion today:



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