Missouri agents arrest out-of-staters for illegal paddlefish near Lake of the Ozarks

Picture of American paddlefish

The American paddlefish, Polyodon spathula, also called the Mississippi paddlefish living in slow-flowing waters. Photo from Getty Images.

MORGAN COUNTY, Mo. — Three people have been arrested for illegally catching and transporting paddlefish and their eggs, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“After 13 hours of surveillance, agents seized 5 whole paddlefish and about 75 pounds of roe,” the department tweeted today, July 7.

The names of those arrested were not mentioned pending charges.

Shared photos show dead paddlefish packed in a container, smeared with blood marks. Six plastic bags are lined up on the back of a truck bed filled with roe, or paddlefish eggs.

Warning: These images may be disturbing to some viewers.

Roe is commonly marked as caviar, as it is very similar to the eggs from the sturgeon family. Global decline of sturgeon in the 2000s has led to an increased demand for caviar, with paddlefish a prime target.

Eight ounces of American paddlefish caviar sells for $250 through Walmart. That means seventy-five pounds would be worth $37,500 retail price.

Hunting for paddlefish and its eggs is extremely regulated, and breaking many of these regulations results in a felony. Most places that allow taking paddlefish have a weight limit and a two-per-day limit. Those harvesting eggs must have a permit.

It’s also illegal to take eggs from a paddlefish carcass and transport eggs for sale across state lines.

Morgan County is connected to Lake of the Ozarks.

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