Hunting Conservation photo

–Chad Love _



Field & Stream_ has previously covered the curious connection between native paddlefish populations and the international illegal caviar trade. But the economic incentive was apparently too great for two Washington men who were recently arrested and charged with Oklahoma wildlife violations after it was discovered their rental car contained over 300 pounds of illegal paddlefish eggs.

From this press release (via Outdoor Wire):
_Anatoly Natekin, 36, and Fedor Natekin, 27, both of Kent, Wash., have been charged with three counts each, including illegally transporting paddlefish eggs with the intent to leave the state, unlawful possession of more than three pounds of processed paddlefish eggs, and conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor. A rental vehicle occupied by the two men was pulled over by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on I-35 April 23.
_Inside the vehicle were 305 pounds of caviar packaged in unmarked jars and several pounds of fish fillets, all believed to be harvested from paddlefish. The charges for possessing more than three pounds of paddlefish eggs and transporting them with intent to leave the state each carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and $10,000 in fines. In addition to fines and possible jail time, courts are required to order violators to pay restitution payments in all fish and wildlife cases.

Native to Oklahoma, paddlefish swim upstream in rivers and tributaries each spring to spawn, particularly in those rivers that empty into lakes in northeast Oklahoma where most paddlefish angling activity takes place. Anglers who flock to northeast Oklahoma each spring to fish for the spawning paddlefish are legally allowed to possess no more than three pounds of paddlefish eggs – which can be used as the primary ingredient for caviar products – and crossing state lines in possession of paddlefish eggs also is illegal.

Game wardens with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation were called to the scene, and the two men were taken to the Kay County Jail in Newkirk. They were released April 26 after posting bond of $5,000 each. Their next court appearance date is set in September, and the evidence was cataloged and is being stored until the trial._