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Officers Increase Enforcement of Caviar Regulations

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More than a dozen caviar fishermen on the Wabash River from Indiana and Illinois have been arrested,cited, or warned in the past year. Conservation officers from both states have stepped up their patrols in the commercial fishing industry, especially in the harvest of shovelnose sturgeon, a fish sought after for its roe, or eggs. Officers say violations have included unlawful use of certain equipment, fishing with an illegal device, and fishing without a license. Master Officer Steve Kline says at least twenty-five additional violations are being investigated for prosecution, involving several other individuals from both states.  [Photos/provided]
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Indiana DNR Law Enforcement News Release: Law enforcement officers from Indiana and Illinois have increased their enforcement efforts of domestic caviar regulations since the onset of the 2012-13 Wabash River shovelnose sturgeon season. Conservation Officers from both Indiana and Illinois have recently stepped up their patrols in the commercial fishing industry, particularly in the commercial harvest of shovelnose sturgeon, which is a fish that is sought after for its roe (eggs). 13 persons from both Indiana and Illinois have been arrested, cited, or warned for commercial fishing violations in the last year. Equipment seizures include 35 commercial fishing nets, three trot lines, 2 wire fish traps, and one boat/motor. These violations include:

• Unlawful use of a gill net (6 counts)
• Failure to tag commercial fishing equipment (7 counts)
• Unlawful use of leads on commercial device (2 counts)
• Unlawful possession of sturgeon under 25” (4 counts)
• Fishing with an illegal device (wire trap) (2 counts)
• Fishing without a license (3 counts)
• Checking sturgeon for presence of eggs with an illegal device (2 counts)

A combined effort between Indiana Conservation Officers and Illinois Conservation Police took place as a result of a number of citizen complaints along the boundary waters of the Wabash River, where shovelnose sturgeon are found. These investigations involved assets from both states, and included river patrols, intelligence gathering and surveillance. “Since we share the fisheries resources with the people of the State of Illinois, it only makes sense to ensure that our regulations and enforcement efforts remain similar,” says Master Officer Steve Kinne, a commercial fishing investigator for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “At least 25 additional violations are being investigated for prosecution, involving several other individuals from both states.”

The shovelnose sturgeon is a fish that is native to the waters of the Mississippi, Illinois, and Wabash Rivers. Although some sport fishermen consume the meat from shovelnose sturgeon, it is the eggs that have been targeted by commercial fishermen in recent years, because of the collapse of the European sturgeon market. Supplies of roe collected from sturgeon in the Caspian Sea plummeted after government deregulation in that region.

Female shovelnose sturgeon living in the Wabash River migrate upstream annually to spawn, or to lay their eggs. These eggs, referred to as roe, are eventually sold, processed, and distributed as caviar. Processed shovelnose sturgeon roe (eggs), commonly referred to as hackleback caviar, currently has a retail market value of approximately $320 / pound. One adult roe-bearing sturgeon can contain as much as one pound of eggs.

“The Wabash River population of shovelnose sturgeon is one of the last commercially exploited sturgeon populations in the world, therefore, strict enforcement of regulations are necessary to ensure proper management while allowing a sustainable harvest,” says Craig Jansen, Big Rivers Assistant Fisheries Biologist of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Commercial fishermen in both states are allowed to take shovelnose sturgeon with approved commercial fishing devices on the Wabash River, as long as they possess the required licenses. Illinois roe harvesters are required to have an Illinois commercial fishing license, an Illinois roe harvester license, and a sport fishing license. Indiana roe harvesters fishing on the Wabash River are required to have an Indiana commercial fishing license and an Indiana roe harvester license. Approved commercial fishing devices in either state include, but are not limited to, hoop nets, fyke nets, basket nets, and basket traps, or trap nets made of twine or cord. Gill nets are prohibited in both states for taking sturgeon. For additional information on commercial fishing regulations and season dates, go to www.in.gov/dnr or www.dnr.state.il.us

All suspects in this investigation are presumed innocent until proven guilty.


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