The simple answer is they are pretty awesome creatures! They have been around for millions of years and carry the past within them. I see our sturgeon on a daily basis, and have done so for the past 16 years and they still bring me a sense of awe when they swim past. Sometimes eyeing me up from beneath the water. I don't think I bring the same sense of awe to them.
David has been captivated by Sturgeon since 1978, when the aquatic shop he was working in as a Saturday boy got in a sterlet. A lifelong obsession began.
Whilst doing his HND in fish farming and fisheries management at Sparsholt college (1985 - 1987) his thesis was on sturgeon and sturgeon farming. His lecturer asked if we needed a new species in UK aquaculture, his answer was yes then and is still yes today.
All around the world there are successful sturgeon farming industries, mostly very large farms fuelled by the income from caviar. Being the natural home of 9 sturgeon species, Europe has a tradition of eating sturgeon and so a huge industry has developed there.
Here in the UK no one has really managed to farm sturgeon, a few have tried, some are still going with limited production. There are many barriers to producing any type of food here in the UK, we are hoping that with our small scale, but knowledgeable aquaponics system we can break down some of those barriers and change our attitude to sturgeon here.
Being a long lived fish, and using no kill methods of caviar harvesting them reduces the resources needed, with many harvests of caviar coming from each fish. Sturgeon depending on the species can grow up to 6 metres in length, and can live for up to 100 years. That is why we need to provide security for our fish, to provide them with a home for the whole of their lives.
Sturgeon species are critically endangered in the wild, with 28 different species, but only a few of these being commercially farmed. Many farms breed hybrid sturgeon, and these often find their way to the pet trade. We are not interested in breeding hybrids.
‘Many species are classified as threatened or endangered, with noticeable declines in sturgeon populations as the demand for caviar increases. IUCN data indicates that over 85% of sturgeon species are at risk of extinction, making them more critically endangered than any other group of animal species.’
Man has been slowly destroying them and their habitat and they deserve to be on the earth as much if not more than any other species. We hope that our work will help to raise the discussions around sturgeon, the need to look after them and the need for good clean waterways here in the UK. You never know the efforts to clean up and rewild our rivers might actually work and we see wild sturgeon in our rivers again.
One of the ways our work can help is for people to be able to come into close contact with sturgeon, to help them understand what they are and how important they are to our world, and inspire more help for sturgeon as a species.
The other area we would like to make people more aware of through our work is the illegal trade in wild caught sturgeon meat and caviar, as well as the horrendous industrial fishing trade, and the even worse industrial fish farming trade and the damage it can do to wild fish stocks.
Caviar and sturgeon meat are high value foods, which is perfect for small scale fish farming and aquaponics. As we are non profit community based aquaponics farm having a high profit goods to support our communities.
Now the work begins
It has been a long long 6 years since we set up New Forest Aquaponics CIC. We have been at the greenhouse that we have been renting since November 2007, it was set up as a quarantine unit for the coldwater fish, pond fish and specialist koi.
Because of this it wasn’t really set up for growing food with aquaponics. For a while we had hoped we could stay there and adapt, but it soon became clear that the site no longer worked for us.
That set us on a journey of working out how we could find a new home, one that would allow us to fulfil our mission of demonstrating regenerative culture through healthy food and community actions. But at the same time provide a permanent and secure home for our fish, who are at the centre of our work.
Some Sturgeon can live for up to 100 years.
That was not as easy as we thought it would be. For a long time we believed that the only way we could do this was to purchase land. So many sites came and went without us being able to afford them, or having the support to purchase as a community. This was the universe showing us none of these sites were the right thing for us.
All the time we have been waiting we have started to run some of the non farming projects, and building our community. It has been amazing, and hard at times, but we now have a wealth of knowledge in community actions, and even better a wide number of friends and supporters who not only are helping us, but helping with other projects that are helping the local community whilst keeping the planet in mind.
Dave and I have taken part in lots of courses and training that will make sure we are successful and helped us see that we could look for somewhere to rent that would meet our needs, and provide the long term security for the fish I would especially like to give a shout out to the Landworkers Alliance and the NESS course we took in 2023 https://landworkersalliance.org.uk/ they understood we needed their help and enrolled us on their south west course - Thank you !
And now is the time to show you what we found!
This is our new home in Boldre, New Forest.
The move has started but it is going to be slow, and we need to raise some funds in order to move - but not as much as we would if we were buying!
To buy in the New Forest area and move would have meant raising around £750k or more. To move to the site and start with no equipment or fish around £100k. But we are not buying, and we have most of what we need to get going at our new site. This means we only need around £25k, that's a huge difference and much more achievable. Even better, we don't need to have all of it to get going. If you would like to support us there are a number of options on how you can do that at the bottom of this post
What will the new site offer?
A secure place for our sturgeon and other fish to live, and to start demonstrating ethical fish farming and caviar production through aquaponics.
Space for our community to come together to learn, grow, heal and play.
Growing healthy ethical food and helping others do the same.
Composting - food waste collections and producing living soil.
Upcycling and waste prevention of everything from plastic to wool.
If you would like to help us financially with the move you will find a donation link on our website. Every penny will help us move..
If you would like to come and help us physically on site drop us a message, we would love to meet you!
The 2nd week of January 2024 saw me give my first talk on Regenerative Culture. I was so pleased to be asked by the local climate group https://e-voice.org.uk/watercan/.
This talk is is about New Forest Aquaponics CIC, how we see regenerative culture, and all the projects we run and how they fit in to regenerative culture.
I think everyone enjoyed it, one comment was
"Lots of food for thought. It's very interesting to be exposed to folk who think so differently"
If you would like to hear this talk and have a community group or an association who would appreciate hearing this talk please get in touch.
Giving talks is one way for us to raise much needed funds, costs are dependant on how far we have to travel, but we aim to work with you as it is really important for us to get our message out to as many people as possible.
Use the calendar or list of months to view entries made on those dates.