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Mon., Aug. 5, 2013, 9:55 a.m.

Washington men arrested; international fish poaching ring suspected

FISHING -- State Department of Fish and Wildlife agents say they’ve arrested two men with suspected ties to an international fish-poaching ring.

The Daily Herald newspaper reports that 38-year-old Igor Stepchuk, of Lynnwood, and Oleg Morozov, of Kent, sold an undercover agent more than $4,500 worth of poached salmon, steelhead and caviar. They’re expected to answer to the charges later this month in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Agents say the men are believed to be connected to a fish-poaching ring that was operating out of several other states. Earlier this year, eight men were indicted in Missouri on federal charges for poaching and trafficking in American paddlefish and their eggs. More than 100 other people were arrested or cited for their part in illegally selling Missouri paddlefish to national and international caviar markets.

Paddlefish roe is sometimes mislabeled as caviar from highly prized sturgeon, which has been on the decline.

Stepchuk is accused of selling the agent five jars of American paddlefish eggs for $500.

Detectives sent samples of the caviar and fish to the department’s molecular genetics laboratory to confirm the species. 

On a more local level, four Western Washington men recently were sentenced for illegally gillnetting 242 trout at Lake Lenore in central Washington. The market for their catch has not been determined.

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Rich Landers writes and photographs stories and columns for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including Outdoors feature sections on Sunday and Thursday.