Man gets probation for paddlefish caviar poaching

The population of the American Paddlefish, which is native to Missouri, is being negatively impacted by the illegal harvesting of caviar in the wake of worldwide pressure on other sources of caviar.

A Colorado man will serve three years probation and pay $5,000 for illegally trafficking in Paddlefish caviar.

49-year-old Felix Baravik of Aurora, Colorado, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the federal crime after being caught in an undercover operation in the Warsaw area of west-central Missouri.

According to U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson, Baravik met the undercover agents and began talking to them about Paddlefish and their caviar. This led to the agents witnessing Baravik catching more than the legal limit of Paddlefish and processing them by removing the caviar.

For pleading guilty, Baravik will serve three years of probation, the first six months of which will consist of house arrest, and pay a fine of $5,000.

Dealing in Paddlefish caviar is a violation of the Lacey Act and a federal crime. Due to the global decline in other sources of caviar, Paddlefish eggs have been marketed as caviar, which has caused overfishing for Paddlefish and a subsequent decline in their population.

In November 2013, in a separate case, 35-year-old Bogdan Nahapetyan of Lake Ozark pleaded guilty to the same crime, negotiating at one point with undercover agents to buy 80 pounds of Paddlefish eggs and five female Paddlefish for $4,625.

Nahapetyan is subject to a sentence of up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.