Friday, November 17, 2006

Oklahoma Caviar Coming Soon?

An innovative concept to turn a commodity that is typically thrown away by anglers into dollars is currently under consideration by the Wildlife Conservation Commission. The idea involves collecting, processing and selling paddlefish eggs as caviar on the international market.

Historically, caviar has come from sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, however that fishery has essentially collapsed and will not be able to produce sturgeon caviar for at least 25 years. Caviar made from paddlefish eggs has proven to be a comparable, if not equal, substitute for sturgeon caviar. As the supply of caviar has decreased, the demand, and price, for a caviar substitute has increased.

Paddlefish are found in several river drainages in the state, but the population in the Grand River system has been studied for the past 25 years. Each spring thousands of paddlefish move upstream to spawn. This fishery, arguably the healthiest paddlefish population in the United States, draws anglers from across the state and the nation for the chance to reel in one of the huge fish, which can exceed 100 pounds.

Many of these anglers choose to clean their fish and take home the meat, however, the eggs are often discarded. The Wildlife Department proposed to the Wildlife Conservation Commission that the eggs be voluntarily collected from sport anglers so they could be sold to fund paddlefish research, management and law enforcement. Similar operations have been in place in Montana and North Dakota since 1989.

After discussion the Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to finance a feasibility study and business plan for the project to determine if the proposal would be financially feasible in Oklahoma.

Editor's Note: What are your thoughts on Oklahoma Caviar - a good idea? Story compliments of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

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