(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – The eggs of paddlefish, otherwise known as Ohio River caviar, are fetching up to $120 per pound, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Superstorm Sandy wrecked much of the caviar industry on the U.S. east coast in November, however, the worldwide demand for the delicacy hasn’t waned.
“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,” said Indiana Conservation Office Steve Kinne.
Now, commercial fisherman are coming as far as the Ohio River basin to find the eggs of paddlesfish, which substitute nicely for the sturgeon variety. The IDNR has seen the number of Indiana commercial fishing licenses up from past fishing seasons and more fishing vessels tending to commercial gear.
Although this season’s prices on caviar appear to have started at about a third of the price as they were this time last year, paddlefish eggs are soon forecasted to fetch $85 to $120 per pound. One large female paddlefish can produce as much as 10 pounds of eggs. Fishermen easily see the equation results in a profit to be made.
“Two Indiana commercial fishermen reported harvests of 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of caviar last fishing season,” Kinne said.
Conservation officers are now warning fisherman that there are regulations that they must follow to help protect paddlefish. The species is listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern in 10 of 22 states within their range. States have noticed a decline in size and populations.
Attributing factors to the decline are habitat alterations and pollution but the largest factor is overharvesting, Kinne said. More fishermen trying their hand at the business.
“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,” Kinne added.
Violating the regulations could result in criminal charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies.
Indiana Conservation Officers are asking the public and sportsmen to take note of any suspicious activity on the Ohio River or its tributaries. Reports can be given to the IDNR by calling 1-800-TIP-IDNR.