Paddlefish roe provides a domestic alternative to purchasing expensive imported sturgeon caviar (Clarke-Kolaks et al 2009). However, increased poaching to harvest eggs, driven by the compensation fishers receive for roe, has led to rising concerns Paddlefish conservation. In 2006, fishers could earn as much as $22.50 per pound of roe harvested (Bettoli et al 2009). Although this may be an ongoing problem, management plans have established guidelines for legal harvest regulations, such as regulating areas where harvest is still permitted to prevent over-exploitation. As different habitats can support varying numbers of fish, limits must also vary according to current population status. A commercial harvest of Paddlefish was permitted during the summer of 2006 in Mississippi. Possessing a Paddlefish that was over thirty inches in length was prohibited and the catch limit was two fish per day (Bettoli et al 2009).
Paddlefish were plentiful in the Mississippi River drainage before 1900 (Jennings and Zigler 2000 However, Paddlefish are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (Grady 2004), largely due to habitat alteration. Paddlefish movement is negatively impacted by the construction of dams as they increase the difficulty of moving upstream to spawn. Increasing river modification, could significantly reduce spawning success and ultimate result in population decline.
Coker (1928) participated in a study to determine whether Paddlefish were injured while passing through the Keokuk Dam located on the upper Mississippi River. The results found that Paddlefish were in fact harmed more often than other species of fish, but Paddlefish were able to move through the system at times unharmed (Coker 1928). River modification can result in loss and degradation of spawning habitats due to the destruction of passageways. Jennings and Zigler (2000) cite river modification (along with pollution and over-exploitation) as they discussed environmental issues relating to declines in Paddlefish abundance. Following modification, Paddlefish populations may be confined to an area, resulting in negative impacts on population size, increased competition for resources, and increased rates of disease transmission and mortality. Piers and other channel construction, while not obstructive, may result changes in Paddlefish movement. Wilkens and Hofmann (2007) noted the Paddlefish avoided structures containing steel, perhaps due to abnormal electric signals. Fish in laboratory trials also avoided metal structures. (Wilkens and Hofmann 2007).
The Paddlefishes along with sturgeons, are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This organization was established in order to prevent over-exploitation of any species due to international trade. As extensive concern for Paddlefish populations began to grow people began to get involved with the conservation of the species, as of March 1992 Paddlefish were listed within the Appendix II section titled "Class Actinopterygii" (Jennings and Zigler 2000; CITES 2015). Currently in the state of Mississippi, the Paddlefish is not considered an endangered species, but is listed by Mississippi Natural Heritage Program as a species of special concern (MNHP 2015; Ross and Brenneman 2001).