To begin, each state has its own rules on commercial and sport sturgeon fishing. However, it is unlawful to sportfish for sturgeon (or any other lawfully obtained fish) and sell it whole or in part in my state (California). Wild sturgeon are also not subject to commercial fishing. Unless you are a member of the Yurok or Hoopah tribes, all Green Sturgeon must be returned immediately after catch (Protective Regulations Proposed for Ancient,
Southern Green Sturgeon in Peril, Center for Biological Diversity, May 21, 2009).
However, we have a number of aquaculture facilities that sell white sturgeon caviar. I believe it’s going for around $90 per ounce. It’s costly and well-presented, but it’s flavorless. I believe the flavor problem stems from the way they grow and feed the fish in order to get them to market in a few years. A mature egg might take anywhere from 11 to 34 years* for a white sturgeon in the wild. As a result, buyer beware.
(* White Sturgeon Hatchery Manual – ISBN 0931876842)
I’m a sturgeon fisherman in the California Delta. I catch legal sturgeon in the wild for both flesh and caviar. Those little black pearls of deliciousness are the honey of the sea! My processor is one of the best on the west coast of the United States. We divide the bounty 50/50 after I buy the canning jars and he prepares the roe.
No, it isn’t unlawful per se, as Patrick Avelino points out. Caviar from the Caspian Sea, on the other hand, is prohibited. The caviar of the many species of sturgeon that reside there has been severely overfished. They are currently classified as a threatened species.
As a result, the United States has prohibited the import of Caspian Sea caviar since 2005. Caviar from other locations, as well as the ‘caviar’ of other fish species, is acceptable.
Last year, Russia and other Caspian-bordering countries decided to prohibit sturgeon fishing.