STOCKTON (CBS13) – A video posted on YouTube shows a group of fisherman yanking a protected green sturgeon from the dark waters of the Delta, and now those men could be in hot water.
The video shows the men using a measuring tape to scope out the catch. Translating the Vietnamese, it appears one man says the fish is 7 feet, 7 inches long and weighs at least 100 pounds.
Moments later they notice the fish is tagged by the California Department of Fish and Game. One man goes on to ask “Do you dare keep it?”
It appears the sturgeon is out of water for several minutes and likely died.
“It is not legal to handle green sturgeon in that way,” Fish and Game’s Stafford Lehr said on Monday.
While considering pressing charges, wardens are also proposing changes to better protect the sturgeon, including making sure California regulations mirror laws already on the books in Oregon and Washington.
“I was disappointed in the way they handled the fish,” Lehr said.
But is the video evidence a clear sign of poaching?
“That’s hard to say,” he admitted. “They posted the video on the Internet.”
The federally threatened species can live to be 100 years old. Local fishermen contacted Monday were having a hard time understanding why the men would mistreat the fish.
“It’s their conscience,” Jim Thomas said. “They needed to know the laws coming out the gate, and I don’t think they did.”
Fish and Game says if a sturgeon is caught with a tag, the fish should be returned to the water and tag can be turned in to the agency.