Sturgeon poachers in Oregon face significant felony charges after catching but failing to release five of the protected fish, as required by law. The poachers tied four of the “living fossils” to the dock, and pulled the last one, a giant seven-footer, up into the boat.
Other anglers along the banks of Scappoose Bay witnessed the poachers catching but failing to release sturgeon and called the Oregon State Police. A few days later, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife troopers found and approached the poachers, who initially lied about their involvement. Troopers pulled two stray lines from the dock and found the four white sturgeon attached, still alive. Troopers then boarded the vessel with cause and found the majestic seven-footer on board.
“It takes between 50 and 80 years for sturgeon to reach that length,” ODFW Columbia River program manager Tucker Jones stated. “The biggest sturgeon are usually females because they require more room for increased egg production. So this fish was most likely a female.”
The troopers’ report read as followed:
“One angler admitted to retaining all the fish and received a citation. He received a citation for Take/Possession of Oversized White Sturgeon, which is a class C Felony under new charge classifications. In addition, the ODFW issued citations for misdemeanor crimes including Take/Possession of White Sturgeon, No Resident Angling License, and Angling Prohibited Method-Barbed Hooks. Troopers also cited for No Resident Angling License and No Combined Angling Tag. Troopers then seized two rods with reels, along with a barbed hook as evidence.”
Sturgeon poachers threaten to decimate a species once abundant in the Pacific Northwest
Sturgeon are considered a Northwest icon and a “living fossil” amongst fish because of their general lack of evolution. Scientists believe that sturgeon of present-day biologically resemble the sturgeon of 200 million years ago — a true aquatic dinosaur.
The report did not reference the size of the other sturgeon. It did, however, specify that all five fish survived the ordeal. Troopers released the poached sturgeon back into the bay, which connects to the Columbia River.
“Sturgeon are a long-lived, slow-growing, and late-maturing species,” Jones elaborated. “Management actions taken today can have repercussions long into the future and rebuilding efforts can be quite prolonged. They already face numerous ecological, environmental, and other human-caused challenges on the road to recovery. Poaching, especially of adult over-size sturgeon, is a huge issue.”
The sportsmen who called in the crime to police will likely receive a $100 reward as part of the Turn in Poachers (TIP) program.
“The TIP Line is a key tool to fight poaching,” program coordinator Yvonne Shaw said. “People who call the TIP Line to report poaching, or suspected poaching, can remain anonymous. They also can get cash rewards or hunter preference points if their tip leads to an arrest or citation.”