As international demand for caviar causes overfishing of the Caspian Sea's once plentiful beluga sturgeon, fishermen are flocking to Missouri to illegally harvest from the next big name in caviar: the Mississippi paddlefish.
Photos courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation Fishing for paddlefish is legal. Harvesting their eggs and selling them as caviar is not
An ancient cousin to the sturgeon, paddlefish are plentiful in Table Rock Lake, Truman Lake and the Lake of the Ozarks, and a female paddlefish can carry as much as twenty pounds of eggs at a time.
"A common black-market price is about $13 an ounce," says Missouri Department of Conservation protection chief Larry Yamnitz. "Therefore, a single large female paddlefish with about twenty pounds of eggs is carrying about $4,000 worth of potential caviar for black-market sales."