WASHINGTON (WEHT) – An Indiana man has pled guilty to three felony counts of illegally harvesting American paddlefish and its roe.
According to court documents, on three separate days in December 2015 and February 2016, Joseph R. Schigur, a licensed commercial fisherman, and his deckhand, harvested 96 American paddlefish from the Ohio waters of the Ohio River that he knew were closed to commercial fishing. Schigur’s three fishing trips resulted in approximately 1,400 pounds of fish meat and 72 pounds of caviar, most of which was sold to commercial vendors in New York City.
After capturing the paddlefish, Schigur transported each catch to his shop in English, Indiana, where the roe was extracted from the females and processed to make caviar and the carcasses were carved up into smaller portions, commonly referred to as “bullets.” The caviar and bullets were then stored in freezers on site for future sale to out-of-state customers.
Schigur pled guilty to three felony counts of Lacey Act violation. He faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 criminal fine, and a possible order requiring restitution payable to the State of Ohio.