New Brunswick caviar company sues government over dead sturgeon

Canadian taxpayers have put a lot of eggs into one basket of New Brunswick’s luxury-caviar market. Before Supreme Sturgeon and Caviar of Pennfield, N.B., fell into receivership in 2010, it had pulled in roughly $3 million in government grants and loans over the course of a decade. It was later revived under new ownership as Breviro Caviar, which, since 2010, has received at least another $750,000 in federal and provincial grants and loans to help with marketing, as well as research and development. While the influx of cash enabled the company to start building a second production site, taxpayers in New Brunswick may now be on the hook for even more.

In a statement of claim filed this summer, Breviro alleges New Brunswick’s departments of transport and environment—as well as other private companies—are responsible for more than $1.9 million in damages as a result of water contamination stemming from nearby highway construction.

The claim says Breviro’s stock of sturgeon experienced shock and mortality in October 2011, when water containing copper, lead and zinc seeped into the water source at their Pennfield site.“You go look at them and they’re surfacing and rolling over on their bellies,” says Jonathan Barry, Breviro’s CEO. “Clearly, contamination got into the water somehow.”

The various provincial departments named in the suit declined to comment because the case is still before the courts. But Maurice Alarie, a civil engineer who works as a consultant for one of the co-defendants, Future Nets & Supplies, says that Barry is “shotgun blasting”—laying claims against multiple defendants for financial compensation without knowing the exact cause of the problem.

With 30-gram tins selling at $143, Breviro’s customers include cruise lines, luxury hotels and high-end restaurants. In February, Barry told the Financial Post that he envisioned Breviro becoming a globally recognized brand for high-end caviar within the next five to 10 years—“like a high-end wine or scotch,” he said. “There’s nothing stopping us.”