Livingston County man faces large fine over harvesting shovelnose sturgeon

Published 11:55 am Tuesday, December 26, 2023

A Livingston County man has been sentenced to five years of probation and required to pay more than $350,000 in fines and restitution at U.S. District Court in Paducah for a Lacey Act violation involving the illegal harvesting and sale of shovelnose sturgeon roe.

Among other provisions, the Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to transport and sell fish that were taken in violation of any law or regulation of any state.  Kentucky regulates fishing for sturgeon and its eggs, which are marketed as caviar.  A violation of the Lacey Act constitutes a felony if the fish had a market value of more than $350.

According to court documents, Charles Hopkins, 52, was sentenced to five years of probation for conspiring with others to sell shovelnose sturgeon that had been harvested in violation of Kentucky law.  He was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Account and $348,613 in restitution to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

“I commend the work and collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources for their outstanding effort in investigating this case,” said Michael A. Bennett, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky.  “Those who seek to ignore laws designed to protect our natural resources should take note that our federal and state law enforcement partners will thoroughly investigate, and this office will aggressively prosecute, violations of federal law.”