Oklahoma caviar sales brought in $1.5 million

A fishing operation on Grand Lake is netting the state Department of Wildlife Conservation more than $1 million a year in caviar sales.
BY SHEILA STOGSDILL Modified: July 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm •  Published: July 12, 2013

A fishing operation on Grand Lake is netting the state Department of Wildlife Conservation more than $1 million a year in caviar sales.

The Paddlefish Research Center sold 15,000 pounds of caviar in 2012, raking in $1.5 million dollars, said Brent Gordon, paddlefish research supervisor.

“Those raw eggs are converted into a high-quality, ready-to-eat, finished product, which is sold on the international market,” Gordon said.

The Wildlife Department oversees the Paddlefish Research Center near Twin Bridges State Park, between Fairland and Wyandotte in rural Ottawa County. The center processes the caviar on-site in March and April and collects data to assist biologists in managing the paddlefish population, he said.

It began selling caviar in 2008 to specialized overseas businesses that sell the product to restaurants and other food outlets.

“We sell 500 pounds at a time,” Gordon said. “Most of Oklahoma's paddlefish caviar is consumed in Europe and Japan.”

Gordon said paddlefish caviar typically sells for $180 a pound, although it's illegal for individuals to sell it. The more widely known Beluga caviar sells for $200 to $300 per ounce.

From those Oklahoma caviar sales, $400,000 is spent on running the center, $300,000 is spent on research and $500,000 on law enforcement, he said. The agency has made several arrests in connection with black-market caviar.

“Back in the 1990s, black-market caviar was selling for $32 a pound,” Gordon said.

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At a glance

The Paddlefish Research Center's spoon bill fishing procedures

Anglers must have a valid fishing license and paddlefish permit.

Any paddlefish legally caught and kept by an angler must be immediately tagged with the angler's paddlefish permit number and must be alive. Dead fish are not accepted.

Received fish are assigned a tracking number, which will stay with the fish throughout the process.

Anglers will be given a plastic bar-coded key tag for each fish, which must be presented when picking up their fillets. This ensures the data are accurate and the anglers receive fillets from the same fish that they caught.

Fillets must be picked up within 24 hours.

Anglers get their fish cleaned free.

The Paddlefish Research Center is open March and April and is 4 miles north of Twin Bridges State Park on State Highway 137. For more information, call the Paddlefish Research Center at (918) 542-9422.

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