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An Owen County couple was recently indicted by a federal jury for trafficking in and falsely labeling illegally harvested paddlefish.
Steve T. Kinder, 51, and Kinder Caviar Inc. have been charged with illegally harvesting paddlefish from Ohio waters and falsely reporting to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources that he caught the fish in Kentucky.
Cornelia Joyce Kinder, 53, as well as Kinder Caviar Inc. and Black Star Caviar Company, are charged with providing false information about the paddlefish eggs to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in order to obtain permits to export the paddlefish to foreign costumers. The false information included the amount of paddlefish eggs to be exported, the names of the fisherman that harvested the paddlefish, and the location where the paddlefish were harvested.
The couple both owned and operated Kinder Caviar and Black Star Caviar.
The companies were exporting paddlefish and eggs as caviar to customers in foreign countries.
The alleged crimes took place between March 2006 and December 2010.
If convicted, the couple faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both on each count. The companies could be fined up to $500,000 per count.
According to a press release by the U.S. Department of Justice, paddlefish are protected by both federal and Ohio law. It is illegal to harvest paddlefish in Ohio waters, but they can be harvested legally in Kentucky waters.
The American paddlefish, also called the Mississippi paddlefish or the spoonbill, is a freshwater fish that is primarily found in the Mississippi River drainage system. Paddlefish were once common in waters throughout the midwest.
Paddlefish eggs are marketed as caviar. The global decline in other caviar sources has led to an increased demand for paddlefish caviar. This increased demand has led to the over-fishing of paddlefish, and consequent decline of the paddlefish population.