SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said an Indiana man has illegally imported more than 2,600 pounds of live channel catfish into Illinois.

Investigators determined Michael Sullivan of Griffith, Ind. purchased the fish from Alabama and Mississippi, and imported them into a Plainfield, Ill. lake during three separate occasions in 2021. He pleaded guilty in October to one count of importing live fish without a permit following an investigation by the Illinois Conservation Police Invasive Species Unit.

IDNR staff reviews and provides free importation permits to importers with tested and disease-free fish. Channel catfish are one species that is susceptible to viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), which can 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.

IDNR said importing fish or other animals without permission poses a risk to the state’s native wildlife populations.

“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. “These types of conservation offenses can be complex and time consuming in an already overburdened court system.”

Along with 24 months of court supervision and $227 in fines and court fees, Sullivan was also ordered to perform 30 hours of community service and pay $10,500 in restitution to the IDNR Conservation Police Operations Assistance Fund.

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

To report poaching and other illegal activity, complete the Target Illinois Poachers (TIP) incident reporting form here or call the TIP line at 877-2DNRLAW.