STOCKTON (CBS) – A group of fishermen could be in trouble after a video posted on YouTube shows a protected green sturgeon being yanked from the dark waters of the Delta.

The video shows the men using a measuring tape to scope out the catch. Speaking in Vietnamese, it appears one man said the fish is 7 feet, 7 inches long and weighs at least 100 pounds.

Moments later they notice the fish is tagged by the California Department of Fish and Game. One man goes on to ask, “Do you dare keep it?”

It appears the sturgeon is out of water for several minutes and likely died.

“It is not legal to handle green sturgeon in that way,” said Stafford Lehr of the Department of Fish and Game on Monday.

As officials consider pressing charges on the fishermen, wardens are also proposing changes to better protect the sturgeon. They include making sure California regulations mirror laws already on the books in Oregon and Washington.

“I was disappointed in the way they handled the fish,” Lehr said.

But is the video evidence a clear sign of poaching?

“That’s hard to say,” he admitted. “They posted the video on the Internet.”

The threatened species can live to be 100 years old. Local fishermen contacted Monday were having a hard time understanding why the men would mistreat the fish.

“It’s their conscience,” Jim Thomas said. “You have to know the regulations and I don’t think they did.”

The Department of Fish and Game said if a sturgeon is caught with a tag, the fish should be returned to the water and the tag can be turned in to the agency.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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