News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 23, 2013

Wabash River commercial fisherman arrested


Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana conservation officers completed an investigation on the Wabash River that resulted in the arrest of an Illinois man for engaging in illegal commercial fishing activity.

Illinois conservation police officers arrested Aaron Taylor, 34, at his home Thursday in Darwin, Ill., located on the Wabash River.

Taylor was taken to the Clark County, Ill. jail, where he is being held for unlawful sale of protected aquatic life, pending a bond hearing.  The arrest was made as part of a joint operation involving the Indiana Department of Natural Resources law enforcement division and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources office of law enforcement.

The investigation revealed that Taylor had been harvesting shovelnose sturgeon from the Wabash River and selling the sturgeon eggs for several years. Taylor did not possess a valid Illinois roe harvester permit. Also in the boat was Larry L. Bryan, 66, also of Darwin, Ill.  Bryan received several citations for boating violations and was released.

Female shovelnose sturgeon living in the Wabash River are targeted by commercial fisherman in both states for the eggs that they produce. Shovelnose sturgeon migrate upstream annually to spawn, or to lay their eggs. These eggs, referred to as roe, are eventually sold, processed and distributed as caviar.

A dedicated license to harvest shovelnose sturgeon using commercial fishing devices is required by both Indiana and Illinois. This license allows the license holder to harvest shovelnose sturgeon for the roe and to sell the roe to a licensed roe dealer. The established season for taking sturgeon with commercial fishing devices in both Indiana and Illinois is from Oct. 1 to May 31.

Taylor was charged in Illinois for unlawful sale of aquatic life (a Class 3 felony), punishable by two to five years  in jail and a $25,000 fine.

Additional misdemeanor charges include two counts of fishing without a valid commercial fishing license; two counts of taking shovelnose sturgeon without a roe harvesters permit; eight counts of failing to properly tag commercial fishing nets; 12 counts of unlawful sale of aquatic life; one count of unlawful possession of protected aquatic life; and one count of failure to maintain records of commercial catch. No additional charges were filed in Indiana.

Taylor’s commercial fishing nets, as well as the boat that Taylor and Bryan were using to transport the illegally taken fish, were seized by Illinois conservation police officers. The boat was owned by Bryan.

“The recent decline in shovelnose sturgeon numbers, combined with the increased demand for the shovelnose sturgeon roe in American, European and Asian markets, can place an additional strain on a fish that doesn’t produce as prolifically as others,” said Indiana Conservation Officer Thomas Lahay.

“Since we share the fisheries resources with the people of the state of Illinois, it only makes sense to ensure that our regulations and enforcement efforts remain similar,” Lahay said.