SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — An Indiana man has pleaded guilty to illegally dumping more than 2,600 pounds of live channel catfish into a lake in Plainfield, Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Michael Sullivan of Griffith entered a guilty plea in October to one count of importing live fish without a permit. For his punishment, Sullivan received 24 months of court supervision along with $227 in fines and court fees. Sullivan was also ordered to pay $10,500 in restitution to IDNR Conservation Police Operations Assistance Fund and perform 30 hours of community service.
According to IDNR’s investigation, Sullivan imported the fish to the Plainfield lake on three separate occasions in 2021, purchasing the channel catfish in Mississippi and Alabama.
The IDNR stated that importing fish or other animals without permission poses a risk to the state’s native wildlife populations and said that channel catfish are a species that is susceptible to viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), which can decimate fish populations.
Kevin Irons, assistant chief of fisheries at IDNR, said so far VHS has been found in the Great Lakes but has not yet been detected in fish in Illinois outside of Lake Michigan.
“Importing and stocking untested fish significantly increases the risks to our resources and undercuts others within the industry abiding by the law,” Irons said.
According to IDNR, permits to import fish are provided for free to importers as long as the fish are tested and disease-free. Conservation Police Officer Brandon Fehrenbacher said most people within the fish transportation industry comply with IDNR regulations.
“I appreciate the partnership of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Will County state’s attorney as we worked to hold this individual accountable for illegally importing live fish and jeopardizing our environment,” said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. “Our state’s ecosystems and natural resources are delicate and should be preserved for years to come.”