Re: NANFA--Paddlefish and gar, 1908

Christopher Scharpf (
Wed, 18 Feb 2004 06:36:09 -0400

> fisherman in Mississippi had recently shipped 63,500 pounds of
> paddlefish meat and 5940 pounds of caviar! Maximum weight of fish was
> reported as 140 lbs and caviar/female as 8-10 pounds. This total was
> probably equivalent to well over 1000 adult fish.
> ...fishery in Louisiana began in 1896. A fishermen with a good crew and
> equipment cleared many thousands of dollars during the 6-month season.
> Wholesale cost of caviar was 75 cents/pound!
> ...paddlefish were collected from special seining barges equiped with
> mile-long nets. Single hauls once yielded as many as 150 barrels of
> paddlefish but even then had decreased to 10 barrels.
> ...alligator gar, viewed as enemies of the paddlefish, were removed and left
> to the vultures. In one season, 30,000 gar were removed from a single
> Mississippi lake. Stockard reports that a commercial fisherman has a
> "scheme in progress to take their skins, the scales of which take a high
> polish, for hand-bags, pocket-books, leggings and like uses. "

Wow. Two things strike me here. One -- the amazing number of fishes that
lived in our waters compared to today. And two -- just how quickly and
mindlessly humans have depleted our aquatic fauna. This reminds me of
something I read a few months back, and which I've been thinking about ever

"It wasn't the vision and principles of our forefathers that made this
country great. It was the huge unused bonanza they found here. One wave of
immigrants after another could occupy new land, new land, new land. There
was topsoil, water -- there was gold, silver, and iron ore lying right on
top of the earth. We picked our way through a ripe orchard and made it

-- Glenn Saunders, quoted in "Cadillac Desert"

Chris Scharpf
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