SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — An Indiana man has pled guilty to illegally importing more than 2,600 pounds of live catfish into Illinois.

Michael Sullivan of Griffith, Indiana, entered a negotiated guilty plea in October to one count of illegally importing live fish without a permit. Investigators found that he had purchased the fish in Mississippi and Alabama before putting them into a Plainfield lake on three separate occasions in 2021.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources provides free importation permits to people with tested and disease-free fish. Catfish are susceptible to viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), which could 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.

Most people with the fish transportation industry comply with IDNR regulations, according to Conservation Police Officer Brando Fehrenbacher.

“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.”

Sullivan received 24 months court supervision and $227 in fines and court fees. He must also 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.”