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Endangered Sturgeon Poached From Tracy Waterway

TRACY (CBS13) -- An endangered fish native to California waters was poached by a Tracy man.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the green sturgeon was taken and transported illegally.

The fish, more than five feet long, was stuffed into the back of an SUV.

"It was a sight to see," said Fish and Wildlife Warden Matt Henderson.

The fish was a 30 year-old green sturgeon — one of about 1,300 left in the world.

"Which is why they are protected," said Henderson.

But the CDFW says, just weeks ago, Kevin Tran of Tracy caught one in Clifton Court Forebay and took it home. The CDFW was notified by witnesses who recognized the illegal catch.

They tracked Tran down and immediately. Luckily, the fish was still alive, but barely.

"The gills were moving, it was moving its body around," Henderson said.

Henderson rushed the fish to a nearby boat launch just in time.

"Spent about 90 minutes with the fish in the water," he said. "The fish was able to swim away on its own."

It was a close call. For avid anglers like Al Sherwood, a green sturgeon is a known no-no.

"Nobody does that," he said. "I've been coming here 20 years, never saw that."

The 67-year-old suspect is accused of breaking several laws, including catching the endangered fish, transporting the fish alive, and not reporting any of it.

Though, Henderson says Tran's motive isn't clear, admitting sturgeons can be confusing.

"Sturgeon in general in California are highly regulated," Henderson said.

But there is a difference between a white sturgeon and a green one. The white sturgeon can be caught for sport – catch and release.

The endangered green sturgeon can't be touched at all – and if it's caught accidentally, it can never be removed from the water.

"There are thousands of dollars that change hands each year in the black market of the illegal sell of wildlife," Henderson said.

Tran was hit with several charges including poaching. The San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office is still investigating.

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