Indiana Conservation Officials Battle Fishermen Harvesting Caviar
Indiana conservation officers say they have increased patrols along the Ohio River in hopes of stopping commercial fishermen from catching the North American paddlefish – a variety being targeted for caviar.
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, ever since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, they have noticed a large insurgence of commercial fisherman migrating towards the Midwest for the sole purpose of catching the female paddlefish to cut them open for their eggs, which is commonly sold as caviar.
The North American paddlefish is one of two fish that are harvested in Indiana for caviar, says leader of the state’s Big Rivers Fisheries Program Tom Stefanavage. "We're working with our neighbors — Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois — to enforce regulations," said Stefanavage. "Caviar is a very lucrative product and a very lucrative industry. It's a small industry, but just Indiana portion is worth several million dollars a year."
Indiana conservation officer Steve Kinne says there are laws in place to protect the paddlefish and the DNR plans to strictly enforce them. "We are observing commercial fishermen setting more nets then they can possibly check, attempting to harvest as many fish as they can," said Kinne. We are observing violations such as fishing in restricted areas, setting more nets than they are licensed for and not checking their nets within 24 hours."
Anyone caught illegally catching a paddlefish will be charged with a misdemeanor, resulting in a fine of up to $35 per fish. Felony charges can be pursued if the amount of fish in their possession is worth more than $500.
This year, caviar prices are anticipated to reach between $85 and $120 per pound.