Serge I. Doroshov
Serge I. Doroshov, Ph.D.
B.S., Zoology-Ichthyology, University of Moscow, 1959.
Ph.D.,biology, University of Moscow, 1968.
Developmental biology and hatchery technology of cultured fish; environmental physiology of early life stages.
Professor Serge Doroshov's Retirement Party (June 28, 2014)
To view the photos, posted on Facebook, please click here.
Serge I. Doroshov is a distinguished scientist in the field of aquatic animal reproduction and fish culture, and a pioneer in sturgeon aquaculture in the United States. In recognition of his ongoing research efforts, Dr. Doroshov was awarded the Honorary Lifetime Membership Award by the World Aquaculture Society in 2000.
Dr. Doroshov was born in western Siberia, Russia in 1937. His family moved to Moscow in 1943 where he lived until 1975. He married Julie in 1958 while they were both studying at the University of Moscow, and in 1959, they graduated with BS and MS degrees in zoology-ichthyology. His early research focused on the feeding ecology of Chinese white bream. In 1967, Doroshov earned a PhD in biology, and in 1968, he became director of the ZNIRO (now the Russian Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography) Laboratory of Marine Aquaculture.
While there, he worked with striped bass (which had been introduced from South Carolina), the local black sea urchin, white sea cod, and polar flounder, and he supervised research programs on hybrid sturgeon development and salmonid and oyster culture. Even though he was not a member of the Communist Party, Dr. Doroshov was allowed to travel to many countries, such as Japan, France, Britain, and Canada. In 1976–77, he worked for the FAO in Cub as an aquaculture expert on marine fish breeding. His wife and their two children (daughter Tanya and son Paul) were allowed to accompany him. On their way back, they made the decision not to return to the USSR. With the help of friends such as the late Dr. Donald Bevan and his wife Tanya, he came to Seattle, Washington. Shortly thereafter, in 1978, Dr. Doroshov accepted a faculty position in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California-Davis.
Initially, Dr. Doroshov studied larval swim bladders of tilapia and striped bass, and the reproductive biology of cultured catfish and trout. Around 1985, the focus of his research shifted almost entirely to the reproductive physiology and broodstock development of white sturgeon.
He has collaborated with commercial aquaculturists and scientists in California, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. He has also maintained an active teaching schedule and has mentored many graduate students. Dr. Doroshov currently teaches two animal science courses— Fish Production in Aquaculture and Reproduction and Development of Aquatic Animals , and he participates in teaching graduate courses in Physiological Ecology and Comparative Physiology.
He has written numerous publications on the reproductive development of sturgeon. His research continues on the reproductive biology of white and green sturgeon and on the development of breeding and culture of the endangered species, Delta smelt.
Dr. Doroshov is a person of commitment. I recently had the opportunity to hear his presentation, “Captive Breeding and Domestication of Sturgeon,” and to speak to him about the future of aquaculture as he sees it.
What was the most challenging part of getting sturgeon culture started?
It was the uncertainty of sturgeon maturation in captivity. Wild female white sturgeon mature at a median age of 24 years—entirely unrealistic for breeding or roe production in any culture. We hoped that maturation would change with accelerated growth in captivity; however, it took at least five to seven years to understand this. Today, we know that artificial feeding and rearing temperature affect development and growth of sturgeon. Female and male sturgeon, cultured in California, mature at age 8 and 4 years, respectively. It is still a long time for breeding, but it made meat and caviar production realistic.
What is your prediction for growing sturgeon for food?
Currently, sturgeon farms in the Western Region produce approximately 2–3 million pounds of food fish, including 15–20 pound fish for the restaurant market and younger, 6–10 pound fish for live fish markets (primarily ethnic market in California). Young, 2-year-old, 6–10 pound white sturgeon yield excellent quality and large-size boneless fillets. Economic analysis indicates feasibility of this culture. However, it will require development of product processing and packaging. The quality of meat in young sturgeon is very good, and such a product will compete favorably in supermarkets.
I know three farms in California and two in Idaho producing food fish for the restaurant and ethnic markets. The production of caviar is limited to two farms in California. The total number of sturgeon farms in the US is probably around ten. Regulations related to endangered species greatly affect the growth of sturgeon farms.
Do you expect caviar prices will remain high with increasing production?
It will depend on product quality, further improvement of sturgeon stocks, and competition among farms. Current production of "farmed" caviar is a rather costly and complex process. For targeting specialized markets, farmers will be required to supply a product similar in taste and appearance to traditional caviar from the Caspian Sea. With this high-priced product, caviar production from farmed sturgeon is economically feasible and is likely to stay within the historic level of production from capture fisheries. The potential improvement of cultured sturgeon stocks (e.g., maturation at younger age, higher yield of eggs) by optimizing nutrition, husbandry, breeding, and health management, as well as the development of new caviar processing technology may change this picture, increase production and competition, and lead to decline in price. However, I don't see this happening in the near future.
Total caviar production from world sturgeon farms (primarily the US and France) is about 10 metric tons (mt), versus an estimated 20–50 mt from the Caspian Sea fisheries. (Statistics there are very unreliable.) Mediumto large-size sturgeon farms, which had initiated domestic breeding at least ten years ago and keep the continual year-class inventory of female sturgeon, have a capacity to double current production within a few years... if they maintain high product quality.
In conclusion, if Dr. Doroshov had not come along to continue his physiological and culture research work on sturgeon at UC Davis, the aquaculture industry would not have experienced the level of development it has in the Western Region. In addition, some of his former students are involved with current research while others have gone on to commercial ventures in sturgeon culture. As a researcher and educator, he has well served the needs of finfish aquaculture in general and the budding sturgeon industry in particular.