Man accused of illegally taking fish eggs in Missouri

Man accused of illegally taking fish eggs in Missouri

Posted: Friday, July 18, 2008 10:06 pm
By: AP

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Memphis man is accused of illegally taking paddlefish eggs from a southwest Missouri lake to make caviar. Thomas Jerry Nix Jr., 38, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury in Springfield. The seven-count indictment alleges that the former Shell Knob man conspired to transport and sell paddlefish eggs that were taken in violation of state and federal laws. Nix is accused of violating the federal Lacey Act, which bars the interstate sale of fish or wildlife knowingly taken or possessed in violation of state law. In Missouri, it is illegal to take paddlefish and other protected fish or wildlife without having the proper permit or using an acceptable method during open season. Court documents list no attorney for Nix, who could not be reached for comment. Federal prosecutors say the eggs were harvested from paddlefish caught in illegal nets at Table Rock Lake. Nix allegedly sold more than 380 pounds of caviar made from the paddlefish to a Tennessee company for $35,820 between mid-January and mid-February. The indictment alleges that Nix set nets on the lake and checked them every one to three days, removing any caught fish and cutting them open to remove their eggs. He would seal the eggs in plastic bags, place them in a cooler and take them to his Missouri home, according to the indictment. He then allegedly would use the eggs to make caviar, which he divided into packages and took to Tennessee to sell. According to the indictment, Nix would lie and say the caviar had been processed legally in Arkansas. The American paddlefish is protected in Missouri. Prosecutors say populations of the fish — once common throughout the Midwest — have declined dramatically because of overfishing and habitat changes. They say paddlefish have become an increasingly popular substitute for sturgeons in making caviar. Published in The Messenger 7.18.08

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