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Indiana boosts Wabash River sturgeon patrols

November 18, 2013 at 02:13 PM

The Associated Press

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana wildlife officials have boosted their presence along the Wabash River in an effort to prevent to the illegal harvesting of shovelnose sturgeon roe, which fetches a hefty price on the global caviar market.

The Wabash — Indiana's state river — is a prime spot for commercial harvesting of the brown bottom-feeding fish whose females carry a pricey delicacy. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says shovelnose sturgeon roe is currently worth more than $300 per pound once it's processed into what's known as Hackleback caviar.

The DNR announced Thursday that it's closely monitoring shovelnose sturgeon fishing along the Wabash River during the fish's current commercial fishing season, which runs from October to May.

Demand for the eggs of domestic sturgeon rose sharply about a decade ago due to overharvesting of sturgeon in Europe, particularly in Russia, said Craig Jansen, the assistant biologist for the DNR's Big Rivers Fisheries Program.

Jansen said the Wabash River's sturgeon population is still "pretty healthy," but a recent survey estimated that about 70 percent of the species' population in the Wabash is male. He said that makes sense considering that nearly all of the fish harvested are females carrying eggs.

Indiana Conservation Officer Tom Lahay said the DNR is confident that Indiana's shovelnose sturgeon populations aren't currently in danger of being overharvested as long as the present regulations are strictly enforced.

Jansen said he's glad to see the concentrated effort to make sure sturgeon fishermen on the Wabash are following the rules.

"In the past there really hasn't been a lot of enforcement out on the rivers," he told the Evansville Courier & Press ( ). "Because these fish bring a lot of money, it is important that these regulations are being enforced."

So far this sturgeon season, 13 people on the Wabash River have been cited or warned by Indiana's DNR or the agency's counterparts in adjacent Illinois for violating equipment requirements.

Lahay said the biggest problem authorities have seen are people who are using large nets to try to catch the sturgeon. He said gill nets are prohibited in the sturgeon harvest.

The DNR said only three people have been cited this season for fishing sturgeon without a license on the Wabash.

Despite the price the fish can bring, only five of Indiana's 15 sturgeon roe harvesting licenses for the Wabash River were issued this year. That special license costs $1,000, Lahay said.

Sturgeon fisherman in Indiana also have to have a general commercial license.


Information from: Evansville Courier & Press,

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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