Catfish caper spawns probe

February 21, 1994|By New York Times News Service

HOUSTON -- Like many fish stories, this is a tale about the ones that got away. So many, in fact -- about 1 million -- that the FBI is investigating.

Sometime between December and January, $100,000 worth of baby catfish, or fingerlings, were stolen from spawning ponds near Danbury, a small town on the upper Texas coast about 50 miles southwest of here.

The theft was not noticed until late last month, when workers at Anat, an aquaculture company, were rounding up fingerlings for a sale and discovered that three of the company's spawning ponds had been emptied.

Because the authorities believe the stolen fingerlings were transported across state lines and because of the value of the fish, the FBI is on the case.

"The dollar amount dictates whether or not the FBI will get involved," said Rolando Moss, a special agent at the bureau's Houston office. "Whether or not it's a priority investigation is another story. We treat it as another case we have to work."

Mr. Moss refused to say why the FBI believed the fish had been taken across state lines. But local authorities and people in the fishing industry said the fingerlings, which are about 6 inches in length, would have commercial value only to people who could raise them and then sell them.

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