Undercover investigation probes Great Lakes fish trafficking

By on December 5, 2014

Diminishing lake trout populations in the Great Lakes have another threat to deal with, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: fish trafficking.

In an undercover operation spanning two years, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators targeted a company near Sturgeon Bay, Michigan, suspected of buying illegal fish. It involved recording conversations, setting up a fake fish store and conducting raids.

At the center of the trafficking case were walleye caught in Lake Superior by tribal fishermen who legally don’t have the right to harvest the fish for commercial reasons. But despite that restriction, reports the Journal Sentinel, the owner of Dan’s Fish agreed to purchase fish from the tribesmen at least six times.

Also implicated in fish trafficking is a market in Charlevoix, Michigan, that USFWS agents say helped launder 49,000 pounds of illegally harvested lake trout from 2011 to 2013. The large-scale investigation uncovered at least five other involved entities, as well as others who were fishing in areas of Lake Superior where catch limits were in place.

“I just buy fish…I don’t know where they came from, I don’t know how they got there, I don’t care,” said one suspect in a conversation investigators recorded.

Top image: These lake trout were part of the investigation into fish trafficking. (Credit: Federal court records)

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