Roe is a naturally orange colour, which is sometimes sold in dyed
form, either red or black. Capelin (Mallotus villosus)
is a small sea fish, growing to about 20cm long. They live in
the cold northern arctic oceans between 50 and 70 degrees north.
the winter months when spawning takes place, capelin congregate
in vast shoals. This schooling habit allows fishermen to catch
them in purse seine nets, just as it allows many of the large
whale species to rely on them as a key seasonal food. In this
spawning condition the fish are in their richest nutritional state.
The males tend to die after spawning, in the manner of some salmon
species, females however often survive to spawn again in future
a million tonnes of this pelagic species is harvested every year,
providing a large quantity of roe. A large proportion of this
comes from the Icelandic fishing fleet.
Europe, Capelin roe is often prepared by steeping in brine, before
packing in small glass jars - very similar to the way lumpfish
roe are processed. Estimates suggest the European market is presently
in the regions of about 100 tonnes per year.
largest market for the small orange eggs is Japan. Japanese sushi
cuisine rates capelin roe, normally sold under the term "Masago",
highly and at present buy most of the world's production. Despite
its established position within the sushi market, Capelin roe
is a relative newcomer to the international fish roe market and
it is expected to play an increased role as European cuisines
the Japanese market, the female roe bearing capelin must ideally
be caught a few weeks prior to spawning. These fish tend to be
frozen and exported to Japan whole where they are processed locally
in their favoured style. Any unwanted elements of the fish are
normally recycled into salmon food for the aquaculture industry.