I have never seen a paddlefish in the wild, although I’ve seen young adults and embryos in the lab — they are quiet, secretive beasts, cruising gape-jawed through our regional rivers to dine on plankton, and growing to immense size without ever troubling anyone. They are gloriously weird animals. But they are in danger of extinction because they also produce voluminous quantities of eggs, also known as caviar. A large female can carry $40,000 worth of eggs, so they are fished up, ignominiously slit open and disemboweled, and left to rot on the river bank.
It’s a real shame. Once again, we hunt a spectacular North American native species to extinction, all because of greed.