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The Curious History of Paddlefish in America

The Curious History of CAVIAR IN AMERICA The U.S. buys nearly one third of the world's caviar* tins of caviar is 1 of 10 MISLABELED MISLABELED The real deal Much of this comes from the AMERICAN PADDLEFISH aka Spoonbill Polyodon spathula These primitive fish have evolved with few morphological changes since the earliest fossil records 70 million to 75 can grow to 175 pounds & 7 feet long- THREATENED million years ago. Paddlefish can live 50+ years and are native to the Mississippi River Basin. a female paddlefish can contain 10 pounds of eggs (roe) FORMERLY This paddlefish is part of a large family related to sturgeon ONLY ONE other modern paddlefish species exists Historic paddlefish range FEARED Psephurus gladius Critically endangered paddlefish native to China, also commonly called "Chinese swordfish," or "elephant fish" EXTINCT Not seen since 2003 L UCRATIVE profit margins have fed illegal overfishing and export $300/oz $300 1 caught illegally $200 2 cut open to harvest eggs one female paddle- fish can fetch as much as $4,500 MARKUP $100 3 smuggled to Russia $35/oz Paddlefish Caviar 4 labeled as Russian caviar eggs CAVIAR 5 resold to Europe and the U.S. $300 In one high profile case, Isidoro Garbarino smuggled more than a single paddlefish can be worth as much as $40,000 $10 MILLION when its roe is sold as high-grade Russian caviar worth of caviar He labeled illegally-caught paddlefish eggs as Russian caviar and sold them for up to $300 an ounce to airlines 2012: Garbarino is caught, but due to his age (69) he is spared jail time The BOOM & BUST of American caviar 2013: Nearly 100 arrested in the biggest caviar-smuggling bust in U.S. history 1700 1800 1900 2000 1800s: Paddlefish are plentiful along the Mississippi River 1920s: Soviet Union Today: Sturgeon and paddlefish are 1890s: Paddlefish 1990s: Soviet Union become major nationalizes and collapse loosens stur- geon regulation and population is again severely threatened 1700s: Catherine the considered the regulates caviar trade, protecting sturgeon populations in Caspian Sea domestic source for 1870s: American caviar with depletion sturgeon caviar boom begins on East Coast Great makes caviar most endangered popular in Europe of domestic sturgeon family of fish Paddlefish population quickly declines due to overfishing 2005: U.S. bans imports of beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea due to the endangered status of sturgeon in that region 1950s: Soviet researchers 1900s: Extensive dam building destroys paddlefish spawning habitats leading to further decline create sturgeon hatcheries to counteract damming of Volga River, protecting populations again American caviar industry quickly fizzles as Atlantic and Midwest- ern sturgeon populations are nearly decimated American Paddlefish have existed for 70-75 MILLION YEARS today 80 million mass dinosaur extinction 66 million years ago Homo sapiens emerged -200,000 years ago years ago paddlefish emerged during the Cretaceous period: 70-75 million years ago Can it survive the 21ST CENTURY? Since 1998, international trade regulations appear to have cut fraudulent caviar by 50% Hatcheries and fishing regulations are helping wild U.S. sturgeon and paddlefish, but they are STILL AT RISK Oklahoma opened a state-run facility that prepares and sells caviar from legally-caught paddlefish Conservation groups recommend buying legal American caviar from sustainably farmed fish The town of Glendive, Montana, now sells its own brand of paddlefish caviar: Yellowstone Caviar Farmed caviar is a growing business in the U.S., especially in California, the Pacific Northwest and the Mississippi River Region, where paddlefish and sturgeon are used in aquaculture For more information and the resources cited on this graphic, visit *Roe to Ruin: The Decline of Sturgeon in the Caspian Sea and the Road to Recovery, December 2000, by Lisa Speer, Natural Resources Defense Council; Liz Lauck and Éllen Pikitch, Ph.D., Wildlife Conservation Society; and Susan Boa, Lisa Dropkin, and Vikki Spruill, SeaWeb Infographic produced by the Food & Environment Reporting Network and

The Curious History of Paddlefish in America

shared by abirt on Jul 07
The story of the illegal trade and overfishing that the American Paddlefish has faced – with its eggs often being mislabeled and sold (for a hefty markup) as Russian caviar.



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