Indiana Conservation Officers are observing the number of Indiana commercial fishing licenses up from past fishing seasons and more fishing vessels tending to commercial gear in the hopes of capturing much sought after caviar.
After the destruction left behind from Hurricane Sandy on the east coast it has now reached as far as the Ohio River basin in Indiana.
The caviar is known as "American Caviar" and it is derived from the North American Paddlefish (Polydon spathula) which inhabits the Ohio River and many other major rivers within the US.
The United States and France are the two largest consumers of caviar in the world. The decline of, top of the line, Beluga, Russian and Stellate sturgeons have increased the demand of North American paddlefish.
According to local commercial fishermen many east coast caviar facilities were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy which caused an increased paddlefish harvest to meet the worldwide demand for caviar.
The added pressure has caused paddlefish to be listed as endangered, threatened or as a species of special concern in 10 of 22 states within the species remaining range. There has been a noticeable decline in size and populations.
Attributing factors to the decline are habitat alterations and pollution but the largest factor is overharvesting.
Paddlefish eggs/caviar are used as a replacement for sturgeon caviar. The commercial fishermen sell their caviar to middlemen who, in turn, sell to wholesalers. This season's prices on caviar appear to have started at about a third of the price as they were this time last year but are projected to reach the $85 to $120 per pound.
One large female paddlefish can produce as much as 10 pounds of finished caviar. Two Indiana commercial fishermen reported harvests of 5000 to 8000 pounds of caviar last fishing season.
"With the demand for paddlefish caviar Indiana Conservation Officers are seeing more commercial fishermen trying their hand at the business" stated Officer Steve Kinne.
There are many rules and regulations commercial fishermen must abide by. Without these regulations, the paddlefish species could suffer greatly.
"We are observing commercial fishermen setting more nets then they can possibly check, attempting to harvest as many fish as they can. We are observing violations such as fishing in restricted areas, setting more nets then they are licensed for and not checking their nets within 24 hours" Officer Kinne added.
Violations can range from misdemeanor to felony charges.
Indiana Conservation Officers advise the public and sportsman if they see any suspicious activity on the waters of the Ohio River or any tributaries to call 1-800-TIP-IDNR or 1-812-837-9536.
You can find the Indiana DNR website here.
1115 Mt. Auburn Road
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