Guilty: Indiana Man Convicted of Importing 2600lbs of Live Catfish


Senior Fisheman
Jan 10, 2009
Craig, Colorado
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Guilty: Indiana Man Convicted of Importing 2600lbs of Live Catfish

Michael Sullivan of Griffith, Indiana has pleaded guilty to importing more than 2,600 pounds of live channel catfish into Illinois without a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The channel catfish were bought in Mississippi and Alabama and taken up north, to Illinois. The investigation determined that Mr. Sullivan imported the channel catfish into a Plainfield Lake three separate times in 2021. Channel catfish is a species that is easily susceptible to viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), this virus can decimate fish stocks in lakes and rivers and is of great concern for the IDNR.

The importation of fish and other animals without permits poses a risk to Illinois’s native wildlife populations due to the possible spread of diseases. The IDNR actually provides free import permits as long as the fish have been tested and proven to be disease-free.

“While VHS has been found in the Great Lakes, currently we have not detected this disease outside of Lake Michigan in Illinois,” said Kevin Irons, assistant chief of fisheries at IDNR.

Most people within the fish transportation industry comply with IDNR regulations, said Conservation Police Officer Brandon Fehrenbacher, who works in the Invasive Species Unit.

“Importing and stocking untested fish significantly increases the risks to our resources and undercuts others within the industry abiding by the law,” he said. “These types of conservation offenses can be complex and time consuming in an already overburdened court system. IDNR is grateful the Illinois Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Bureau and the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office dedicated the time and resources required to prosecute this case.”

Mr. Sullivan was handed down a sentence of 24 months of court supervision and ordered to pay $227 in fines and court fees. He also has to perform 30 hours of community service. The biggest hit to him is $10,500 he must pay in restitution to the IDNR Conservation Police Operations Assistance Fund.

“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.”

For more information about fish importation laws in Illinois, visit

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