Posted: 28.11.2023 17:55:00

Go fish

This is not a meme: fish production is developing in Belarus, and a Michelin-starred restaurateur has put our black caviar in first place

Quite recently, they tried to make waves on the Internet about the alleged re-export of salmon under the Belarusian brand. Like, where else do Belarusians get such a miracle? In fact, it turned out that the miracle is grown in Belarusian industrial ‘fiords’. Sceptical jokers can see for themselves: valuable fish species from Belarus are not at all a meme from the Internet, but a completely profitable business. You just have to look at other networks (our fish farms) or take a walk among the fair’s shopping arcades. Here you will find sterlet, sturgeon, trout, catfish, pike perch and grass carp with silver carp.
And it happened because all this time the President insisted: there should be more fish on our table. No sooner said than done: the industry, under his constant attention, is making a confident move towards industrial fish farming. The state helps producers in purchasing machinery and equipment for processing, and dates the purchase of fish feed. Visiting a trout farm in the Kostyukovichi District in 2019, Aleksandr Lukashenko demanded that fish production must be at least doubled. This is provided for by the state programme until 2025.

The President of Belarus, 
Aleksandr  Lukashenko,

“Why are we delaying, why are we afraid? The technologies are excellent, there are markets. And at a minimum, we need to double fish production, not only in the Mogilev Region.”

During a visit to the Lokhva trout farm 
in the Kostyukovichi District 
on August 14th, 2019

Beluga + sterlet = bester

‘It’s time for everyone to try how tasty and tender crabs are’. There was such a poster during the USSR, when the great power had heaps of seafood: Far Eastern, Northern, Caspian, Baltic.
But the resources of the world’s oceans are running out. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts that by 2030–2040, sources of marine fish will begin to decline, but the price, on the contrary, will rise significantly. We definitely won’t have time for frills. What to do and what to do? There is a solution, and it seems to have been found in Belarus: only its own aquaculture will save the situation.
Belarusian royal fish — sterlet, sturgeon, trout — have already found their way onto store shelves and tables of Belarusians. Now it’s the turn of the beluga and even a fish unprecedented in nature (a hybrid of a beluga and a sterlet) — bester. For the second year, the experimental fish farm called Selets has been harvesting beluga caviar, after waiting until the representative of the sturgeon family reaches puberty, which begins at the age of 16. Bester grows faster than sterlet, matures faster than beluga and is less susceptible to diseases. The juveniles turn out to be resilient, as Yuri Bazhenov, director of the Selets Experimental Fish Farm, characterises them, “Some fry reach 100 grammes. At the two-year stage they should be approaching commercial fish. For comparison: sterlet needs to grow for three to four years to reach the market. In 2024, we plan to continue working on all sorts of possible hybrids, and, of course, raise pure beluga.”
“Healthy and tasty elite products are in demand in the domestic market. This is noticeable at fairs; we also supply delicacies to restaurants,” Yuri Bazhenov emphasises.
Growing valuable species is beneficial for fish farms, but it is necessary to put this area on an industrial basis, the manager is convinced, “The Institute of Fisheries of the Scientific and Practical Centre for Animal Husbandry of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus invites businesses to start breeding American paddlefish. This species, which is promising for domestic fish farming, can live (and winter) in carp ponds. Paddlefish, like a whale shark, has the habit of swimming with its mouth open, swallowing small fish and plankton that get there. Grows up to 25–30 kilogrammes or more. You can appreciate the merits of an overseas guest in Vileika; in the ponds of the institute’s branch, these giants feel at home.”
The fish seeks where it is deeper, and man improves the technology of its cultivation. The case with Belarusian black caviar is that story. In the Fanipol workshop of DG-Centre, where sturgeon are raised using a recirculation system and caviar is produced using the slaughter method, the water is treated with ozone to achieve its crystal purity. They installed a real reactor in the workshop that makes O3 from O2.
The sterile environment affects the taste of the final product — by the way, it was highly appreciated by the chef of the famous Parisian restaurant Le Cinq , winner of three Michelin stars Christian Le Sker. At a blind tasting in Moscow several years ago, the Admiral brand Husso of DG-Centre  took first place.
The President calls for the construction of such modern complexes. The prospects for growing valuable breeds in Belarus have become much clearer if you have your own feed.
When visiting BNBK a year ago, the Head of State instructed to think through new steps in this segment, taking into account the availability of modern compound feeds from the biotechnological corporation. Many fish farms already use BNBK feed. Thus, Selets will receive about 80 of the 110 tonnes consumed from this manufacturer.

vitaly pivovarchik

Cool place

Personnel, technology, raw materials. It is the Mogilev Region that has all these resources, so the region is a cool place for the development of fish farming. Students of the Belarusian State Agricultural Academy in Gorki, where the Fish Hatchery Industrial Complex has been operating since 2012, feel like fish in water. Practice, scientific activity — when the production site for raising fry is nearby, specialists are formed faster, believes the head of the department of ichthyology and fish farming of the Belarusian State Agricultural Academy, Konstantin Shumsky, “The complex is a branch of our department. The main task is scientific support and supply of personnel for the industry. Every year, students undergo internships not only in the nursery, but also in the Lokhva commercial farms. The staff of these enterprises is also made up of our graduates. Master’s and postgraduate students write scientific papers on the basis of trout farming. The research is aimed at solving two important problems: increasing the safety of eggs and more rapid development of the fry.”

aleksandr kulevsky

We are pioneers in the CIS

Graduates of the Belarusian State Agricultural Academy are future specialists who will come to the new generation commodity complex Paluzh in Krasnopolye. Here they will not only grow trout, but also fry from caviar for their own production. Almost all processes are planned to be automated.
A similar project will be in Khotimsk. The complex is planned for completion in 2026. And the most ambitious project for the construction of a broodstock for caviar production is in Cherikov. Now there will be no need to buy caviar abroad; we will be able to produce it at home. There is no such high-tech production in the CIS.
25 million pieces of caviar will be enough for new complexes. About 12–15 million pieces will be for export. The direction is not only profitable, since caviar has good profitability, but also promising. Complicated logistics will allow you not to depend on foreign suppliers. Thus, we will have our own caviar for future production, which means we will have different valuable types of fish already on the tables.


Numbers in growth
Fish production this year will increase by two thousand tonnes. 
Fish production last year amounted to 12.6 thousand tonnes. The country mainly breeds pond fish. Carp occupies about 75 percent of the production volume, silver carp — about 10. “So, this year in the country as a whole, fish production is expected to increase by two thousand tonnes, the growth rate will be about 115 percent,” the head of the department of industrial livestock farming and fisheries activities Ministry of Agriculture and Food Valentina Odintsova said.


In 2000, the average per capita consumption of fish in Belarus was 9.5 kilogrammes, in 2022 – 12.9 kilogrammes. The norm recommended by doctors is 21.3 kilogrammes per year. Now, in artificial conditions, the country has learned to grow about 150 species of fish, among which the most valuable are salmon and sturgeon.

The Agricultural Business for 2021–2025 state programme provides for an almost doubling of production volumes of valuable fish species (salmon and sturgeon) throughout the country

pavel bogush

Trout in the top
We found out how much expensive fish is grown in the country. 
The Agriculture and Food Ministry considers the cultivation of valuable fish species to be a promising direction. Among these, for example, the production of trout occupies more than 70 percent, sturgeon — 10, and catfish — 7. In the Mogilev Region, projects will be implemented in 2024–2026 to create three fish hatchery complexes. It is planned that fish production there will increase to 18 thousand tonnes per year by 2027.

By Yelena Klimovich, Tatyana Sedunova