Wisconsin Official Traded Sturgeon Research Eggs for Caviar, Prosecutors Say
The eggs are processed into small black pearls, prized by the gastronomic world for a bursting mouth, lustrous flavor profile, said by state fish farming staff that research on sturgeon populations in Wisconsin is needed.
But prosecutors say state biologists who oversee the traditional sturgeon season in Lake Winnebago and have a winter rite for fishing enthusiasts in the state have gained an expensive and illegal taste for caviar made from eggs did.
Biologist, Ryan P. Koenigs, who has been an employee of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources since 2008, accepted at least $ 20,000 in exchange for a supply of eggs with a caviar processor that was collected under the guise of research, a criminal complaint in Winnebago County Filed last week.
According to prosecutors, the caviar-processing business is run for the state by a former biologist who said it was one of several caviar processors that received sturgeon eggs as part of a bartering scheme. Prosecutors say the former employee, who received 65 pounds of roe in 2015 that produced $ 100,000 in caviar, has not been charged.
In Wisconsin, state law requires eggs to be returned to a person who spears sturgeon if requested or abandoned. Prosecutors noted that caviar produced from sturgeon eggs could sell for more than $ 100 an ounce.
Lake sturgeon, some of which can live up to 150 years but are Named by the American Fisheries Society as a threat in North America, Are part of the state’s rich and quaint fishing heritage.
Mr. Koenigs’ arrest last week, along with three others who were not state employees, after a three-year investigation by the state and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. According to the prosecution, a former supervisor of the fishery unit told investigators that during team meetings, employees would accept caviar and eat some, some for personal use and some would give to the bar.
The criminal complaint states that there is a high demand for caviar in legal and illegal markets and that significant efforts have been made in these types of investigations worldwide to protect caviar-bearing sturgeon species.
Authorities said Koenigs, 36, of Appleton, Wis., Was charged last Wednesday with a charge of obstructing an investigation by a conservation warden in Kalute County. According to a criminal complaint, prosecutors said they had lied to investigators about the plan, which began in 2012 before Sturgeon began overseeing the surgeon season. He also reset a state-issued cellphone in an attempt to hide the evidence.
Prosecutors said they were charged with one count of robbery in Winnabago County on Thursday.
Mr. Koenigs’ attorney, Scott Seaman, said in an email that his client would plead not guilty. He declined to comment further on the case.
A spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources said Sunday night that Mr. Koenigs had been placed on administrative leave, but he could not discuss the matter with the agency beyond his position.
The arrests of Mr. Koenigs, whom some news outlets refer to as the “Sturgeon General”, arrived in Wisconsin on Saturday, days before the start of the sturgeon surgeon’s season.
Tightly controlled program Require that each sturgeon caught is logged at the state-run registration station, which collects information about length, weight and sex and details of tagging. The season usually lasts for 16 days or until sex-specific crop caps are found for a particular fishery.
Inspectors sometimes remove reproductive glands from adult female sturgeon that contain eggs so that they can be studied.
The Winnebago County criminal complaint states, “Lake sturgeon and many sturgeon species are rare and currently endangered, endangered, and even extinct in the United States and parts of the world.”
Prosecutors said previous investigations tied the caviar to organized crime and that smugglers smuggled in as a higher-grade, more expensive caviar were exported to the Asian and European markets and then to the United States. Was sold from
“Because of this, it is important to ensure accountability with all aspects of our laws designed to prevent the illegal commercialization of our natural resources,” the criminal complaint said.