Paddlefish: Ecological, Aquacultural, and Regulatory Challenges of Managing a Global Resource

Chapter 13: Proactive Harvest Management of Commercial Paddlefish Fisheries

Steven J. Rider, Dennis K. Riecke, and Dennis L. Scarnecchia


Abstract.—Overexploitation of wild sturgeon (Acipenseridae) species worldwide for caviar has led to a shift in harvest to Paddlefish (Polyodontidae: Polyodon spathula), another Acipenseriform species and a state-managed fish still harvested commercially in eight states within the United States. State game and fish agencies with commercial fisheries are increasingly being pressured to open or extend commercial Paddlefish fisheries under their respective jurisdictions. In addition to the increased needs for a multi-state management framework among states, new demands on the Paddlefish within states and its high vulnerability to overharvest require more proactive, innovative, and restrictive management approaches than the frequently liberal regulations of the past. This paper describes proactive management strategies implemented by state fisheries agencies in Alabama and Mississippi for the long-term conservation of their Paddlefish fisheries. The management actions implemented fall into three broad areas: (1) fishing areas, seasons, and participation; (2) fishing and harvest restrictions; and (3) licensing fees, reporting, and training. Actions taken under (1) included defining Paddlefish management areas, establishing specific harvest seasons and daily harvest times, and limiting the number of harvesters. Actions under (2) included enacting length limits and female-only harvest (Alabama), implementing harvest (carcass) tags to track fish and roe, and establishing gear restrictions to reduce unintended Paddlefish mortality. Actions under (3) included establishing rational permit requirements and fees, establishing specific harvest reporting requirements, and providing informational training to aid in angler compliance. Although there are many similarities in the approaches taken, each state has tailored its regulations to its political and biological situation. Alabama and Mississippi will be evaluating the effectiveness of their approaches and needed adaptations will be made to ensure long-term sustainability of the Paddlefish.