By Diana Hefley
An undercover operation in Snohomish County by state fish and wildlife agents has netted two men with suspected ties to an international fish-poaching ring.
The men are accused of illegally selling caviar, steelhead and salmon. One of the men admitted to illegally "snagging" at least 100 pounds of steelhead, prosecutors said. The men were charged on Tuesday with unlawful trafficking of fish, a felony.
"It's bad enough when they're stealing by harvesting illegally. They've added to the egregiousness by then making a profit," said Mike Cenci, a marine patrol captain with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Agents say the men are believed to be connected to a fish-poaching ring that was operating out of several other states. Earlier this year, eight men were indicted in Missouri on federal charges for poaching and trafficking in American paddlefish and their eggs. More than 100 other people were arrested or cited for their part in illegally selling Missouri paddlefish to national and international caviar markets.
American paddlefish, also known as spoonbills, are native to the Mississippi River watershed. The prehistoric fish can live for decades, weigh up 160 pounds and reach seven feet long. Criminals sell eggs from the boneless fish as higher-quality caviar.
"Paddlefish are often sold under the guise of sturgeon," Cenci said. More....