Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Tennessee
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Bettoli, P. W., G. D. Scholten, and W. C. Reeves. 2007. Protecting a commercially-exploited paddlefish stock from overfishing: Case History of the Research and Regulatory Process. Fisheries 32:390-397.


A commercial fishery for paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) in the Tennessee River was largely unregulated through the 1990s. Beginning in 2002, attention devoted to the plight of caviar-yielding species around the world resulted in much more scrutiny of the Tennessee paddlefish industry. This article describes the stock assessment of a paddlefish stock and the approach taken to present research findings to state and federal regulators and a skeptical fishing community. The end result for the fishery, and lessons learned from a series of public, facilitated, and state commission meetings are discussed. The need to compromise with the fishing industry meant that not all of the measures proposed to protect the fishery from overfishing were enacted; however, the fishery entered the 2006-2007 season with more regulations in place than ever before and with a promise by the regulatory commission that more restrictive regulations will be imposed in the future if warranted.