Audioburst Search

A Brief and Shady History of Caviar


Talk about caviar. Only the row of Beluga Russian Sturgeon Persian sturgeon etc is considered appeared to be authentic caviar. And the really good stuff is incredibly expensive right. So after the fall of Soviet a union all of a sudden it's hard to get the good stuff and prices go up so what happens people look for substitutes. And where do they go. Oh yes so. It turns out that there's a fish in the middle of the country called the American paddle fish and at some point about three decades ago Russian and Slavic people who pass through this area started to realize that the the row actually tasted quite similar to to the stuff that they were. We used to back in the Soviet Union and poaching kind of predictably ensued so a paddle fish described paddle fish. How big is it? So it's a pretty ridiculous Nicholas Looking fish at its way up to one hundred sixty pounds it can be seven feet long including this needle nose snout that it has If you stood up it would look like the Chrysler building almost New York only slightly smaller only slightly smaller Yeah they're enormous and they're actually you know a lot of fun to catch you. Don't really catch them with a fishing pole. You Snag Them. You literally have to get them close to your boat and then Hook them with this enormous gaffe and it's a real struggle to pull hold them up and when you catch one it's a rush you know you. Normally you'd have to go to the ocean to catch a fish this big right Missouri not near an ocean on yet yet. You can get a really cool photo of you. Holding this monstrous prehistoric fish Warsaw Missouri is the place. The story takes place in ten or fifteen years ago. They started seeing signs of poaching. S- all of a sudden people got hold of the notion that This was actually a source of caviar. Yes so in the eighties. There had been a really major poaching operation where there really was a a cartel that was catching these fish. Mixing them with legal fish sending them to New York sending them some people say over to Europe Both labeled legally as paddle fish caviar and then also illegally as you know Russian caviar and so it was with this in mind that the local conservation agents when they started hearing reports of Russian accents. Ukrainian accents sense. You know Mercedes Point town. They were very aware that this had happened before and their guard was was out for sure. So tell me about the guy. The investigator the lead investigator his name is Greg hitchings. Who is this guy? And how does he get involved with us. Yes Oh Greg hitchings is interesting guy. He was basically considered a genius In the Missouri Game Warden Community in terms of undercover investigations And so when the local agents caught wind of Russian accents and fish guts on back roads they called in Greg etchings and he came to town and was trying to think of a good undercover operation to catch the poachers that they thought were out there. and he came up with with. Operation Roadhouse so what was operation. Roadhouse what was he doing well so typically the way these game wardens will catch poachers. Says says they'll be patrolling up and down the river. They hope to catch a guy you know with too many fishing boat but ultimately that method has you running around the very large Ajaria probably not catching that many people. They had some men to at their disposal but not a ton and so they basically decided they were going to get the poachers to come to them and and what they did was they found this incredible location right by really right at the border of where he can begin snagging fish and it was an old abandoned. A restaurant bar that had a big dock and said they leased it and they basically put out word that you know for seven bucks a day. You could come down there and snag and Wink Wink. We're not really GONNA enforce the to paddle fish limit per day and we've got around pretty quick Oliver Missouri and then over the country. The this was the spot to Goto and scores and scores of guys descended on this place to start illegally poaching and so this is hi tech or this is just low tech. Yeah it was pretty high tech. They had you know in the little bake shop. They set up. They had a hidden camera. And they you know fishermen fishermen are known. I think for for boasting about the fish they catch and so they had a board where they you chuck up the size of the fish they'd caught and and literally guys are are confessing on this board to catching multiple fish day confessing to their crimes. Essentially on camera is pretty ingenious. They also had little. Oh keychain cameras that a lot of the undercover guys who were posing dockworkers carried. It was fairly high tech for a poaching operation. How long did this operation last? Just one season so they did it for two season two seasons but yeah they basically. They looked around. They saw these guys catching this fish. There were guys at a motel across. It's the street who were actually gutting fish and preparing the caviar and canning it There were guys going around town away from the dock actually buying fish fish from undercover officers for hundreds of dollars. There was a guy a couple of guys and there was A. Let's be clear there was a lot of drinking. Going on at this doc There were poachers. Who who are boasting I can make this many thousands of dollars selling it in Chicago? So there is a fair amount of circumstantial evidence that there might be some sort of caviar mafia that descended on the town of Day. New Ma that the end result of all this was that that was really not what was going on at all right now so the morning. The of the the bus it was something out of you know Netflix show They had guys across multiple time zones doing raids on the homes of different poachers. They did it as potentially being no major distributors of of paddle. Fish Caviar. They arrested them and over the course of the day. Eh as they're interrogating these guys it became clear. These weren't a caviar cartel. These guys who really liked caviar and like deficient officially I I love so they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and a two year operation with cameras and keychain cameras and this and that and the other thing and and they dislike heavier yeah millions of dollars they spent on the separation. Yeah there were federal prosecutions on seven. These were just guys who liked drinking and getting some caviar and making up stories about how they were going to sell them for thousands of dollars so In the lead investigator did at the end of the day he was promoted in. This was a success for him or he just view this kind of a strange way to spend a couple of fishing season he retired shortly thereafter But is still grocer widely celebrated in the department and however you view the use of resources to catch these guys. It was a pretty ingenious operation that he set up He just caught art minnows. Instead of big fish Dave thank you so much Thanks her being millstream. Thank you

Coming up next