From GPS trackers on vehicles to social media spying, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have spent almost two years investigating California's black market caviar market. They've now arrested eight people suspected of illegally fishing sturgeon in the Sacramento River and Carquinez Strait to source the roe for their caviar. Apparently, the caviar king pins referred to the sturgeon roe as "black gold" that could be sold as caviar for $150 a pound compared to $100 per ounce at fine restaurants. Southern DSP Green Sturgeon are protected as a threatened species under the Federal Endangered Species Act while White Sturgeon are categorized as a state Species of Special Concern dependent on conservation efforts for protection. From the East Bay Times:
The suspects called sturgeon roe "black gold," and it sold for around $150 a pound — a massive discount compared to restaurant prices, which can reach around $100 per ounce[…]
Authorities say this ring is one of the biggest the department has come across, in terms of its scope, the number of jurisdictions involved, and the other potential criminal activity, which includes illegal weapons possession, counterfeit cash, and 1,000 pounds of suspected illegal cannabis found during a search warrant service last April.
Authorities believe the suspects, including Oakland residents Andrew Chao, 31, and Ay Pou Saechao, 35, illegally fished at least 36 sturgeon over a two-year period, including a barely living 85.5-inch white sturgeon found in the trunk of Chao's gold sedan during a March 14 traffic stop near the Sacramento River. The fish was raced back to the water and survived.