The Illinois Department of Natural Resources recently announced prosecutions against three out-of-state businesses for alleged violations of Illinois laws governing the importation of fish species that can become invasive, or can potentially spread Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS). Investigations by the Illinois Conservation Police have resulted in fines of nearly $30,000, with the potential for additional fines as the remaining case is adjudicated. Here’s the description of the alleged violations from the Illinois DNR:
“Realistic Bait, LLC / Owner Phillip Taylor
“Realistic Bait, LLC unlawfully imported minnows and grass carp into Illinois without required permits. Realistic Bait, LLC also did not possess a non-resident aquatic life dealer’s license, VHS import permit, or restricted species permit. The investigation revealed Realistic Bait, LLC was delivering bait fish to seven different businesses in Will and Grundy Counties. The invoices gathered from those businesses totaled over $14,000. On June 18, 2013, an employee of Realistic Bait, LLC was observed selling live bait at a business in Will County. Conservation Police seized Golden Shiners, Fathead Minnows, and White Suckers. The minnows were tested for VHS and the results were negative. Both the owner and company entered guilty pleas on August 19, 2014, to the unlawful importation of VHS susceptible species without import permits. Fines totaled $4,000.
“Sweetwater Springs Fish Farm / Owner Mark Eikenberry
“Compliance checks conducted on fish markets in Chicago in 2012 revealed Sweetwater Springs Fish Farm and owner Mark Eikenberry were supplying grass carp, bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, striped bass, bighead carp, tilapia, eels, and turtles to those markets. Eikenberry did not have a VHS or Restricted Species permit. Eikenberry’s non-resident aquatic life dealer’s license was also expired. In September of 2012, Sweetwater Springs Fish Farm was stopped in Effingham County while hauling live grass carp, largemouth bass, hybrid bluegill, channel catfish, and turtles without a VHS or Restricted Species permit. VHS results for the fish were negative. An additional test of the sampled grass carp revealed they were diploids, meaning they could reproduce. Further investigation revealed Sweetwater Springs Fish Farm had sold or imported over $153,000 worth of aquatic life without required licenses or permits in Illinois. On January 30, 2014, Sweetwater Springs Fish Farm and Eikenberry entered a guilty plea in Cook County court to unlawful import of VHS susceptible species without import permits. Fines totaled $25,000.
“Farm Cat, Inc. / Owner Thad Finley
“In February of 2014, Illinois Conservation Police learned Farm Cat, Inc. had delivered live channel catfish to a Chicago fish market without a VHS import permit and non-resident aquatic life dealer’s license. Invoices gathered from six different businesses showed Farm Cat, Inc. had delivered largemouth bass, grass carp, channel catfish, and tilapia. Further investigation revealed that between January of 2013 and April of 2014, Farm Cat, Inc. had imported and sold over $712,000 worth of aquatic life without the required dealer’s license and or VHS import permit. Charges against Farm Cat, Inc. and owner, Thad Finley, are currently pending.”
Nearly all regulatory authority for aquaculture and fish importation is promulgated though the Illinois DNR. Persons wishing to import live aquatic life into the state from an outside state must obtain:
a) live fish importation (or salmonid importation permit) from DNR (time limit – no fee)
b) non-resident aquatic life dealer license from DNR (annual – fee)
c) restricted species transportation permit if the species is not listed on the IL Aquatic Life Approved Species List (time limit – no fee).