SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WEHT) – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) announced on Tuesday that an Indiana man pleaded guilty to importing more than 2,600 pounds of live channel catfish into Illinois without a permit.

IDNR officials say Michael Sullivan of Griffith, Indiana, entered a negotiated guilty plea in October to one count of importing live fish without a permit. Importing fish or other animals without permission poses a risk to the state’s native wildlife population.

“Importing and stocking untested fish significantly increases the risks to our resources and undercuts others within the industry abiding by the law,” said Conservation Police Officer Brandon Fehrenbacher from the Invasive Species Unit. “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.

The case was filed in Will County, Illinois following an investigation by the Illinois Conservation Police Invasive Species Unit. The case was prosecuted by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the Will County state’s attorney.

Reports say Sullivan bought the fish in Mississippi and Alabama and then imported the fish into a Plainfield lake three separate times in 2021.

IDNR staff says they review and provide free importation permits to importers who have tested and disease-free fish. Channel catfish are susceptible to Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), which has been known to decimate fish populations.

“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.

Authorities say Sullivan received a sentence of 24 months court supervision and $227 in fines and court fees. He was also ordered to perform 30 hours of community service and pay $10,500 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.”

More information about Illinois fish importation laws can be found here.