Fishing resources

Department of Natural Resources: Platteville Fish Wholesaler Sentenced in Wisconsin’s First-Ever Invasive Carp Case

MADISON, Wis. – A Platteville wholesale fish dealer has been convicted of illegally selling invasive carp, Wisconsin’s largest and most destructive invasive species. The case is the first ever in Wisconsin involving the illegal sale of Asian carp.

Ping Li, co-owner and sole operator of Li Fish Farm, LLC in rural Platteville, was convicted in Grant and Dane County Circuit Courts of two misdemeanors and 17 forfeiture violations in a plea agreement. Li was ordered to pay over $13,000 in fines.

The 19 convictions were for offenses including violating wholesale fish dealers’ vehicle identification requirements when transporting fish, possession of illegal fish worth more than $300, improper transport of Asian carp and non-compliance with the registers of wholesale fish merchants.

A complaint from a member of the public sparked a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) investigation in 2018, which primarily focused on activities in 2018 and 2019. However, illegal fishing activities had been ongoing for several years before.

The types of carp involved in this case – bighead, silver and grass-eating – are different from the carp commonly known as German carp or common carp, which have lived in Wisconsin since the mid-1800s. Bighead carp, silver carp and grass carp are highly invasive fish that can destroy native fish habitats.

“The species tops the list of least wanted aquatic invasive species of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers,” said Lt. Robert Stroess, MNR Commercial Fisheries and Aquatic Species Administrator. in the enforcement of trade laws.

Specifically, threats from each type of carp include:

  • the bighead carp feeds on plankton, which is the main food for many native fish, including walleye, yellow perch, lake whitefish and all juvenile fish. This specific carp is a major threat to the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry.
  • the silver carp is another feeder on the habitats of fish attacked by the bighead. This species is also known to leap out of the water, posing a threat to boaters and the region’s $16 billion boating industry.
  • the grass carp eats aquatic habitats and is known to contribute to algal blooms and damage to wetlands and waterfowl habitats.

In Wisconsin, by law, invasive carp must be gutted (gutted) or have the entire gill cover cut off. This requirement exists because these invasive carp can survive out of water for up to a day or more. Gutting them or cutting off the gill covering ensures that the fish cannot be resuscitated. Many other states have similar laws.

“Laws around the Great Lakes states are in place to minimize the threat of these species ending up in new waterways in human hands,” Stroess said. “The laws are important protections for our native Wisconsin fish.”

Almost all of the invasive carp sold and transported by Li were completely intact and therefore illegal in Wisconsin. In 2018 alone, more than 9,000 pounds of Li’s overall invasive carp sales were transported or sold illegally in the state.

Li also broke the law when he used an unmarked refrigerated van to transport and deliver most of the illegal carp, which made it difficult to identify him as a wholesale fish dealer vehicle.

To learn more, visit the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors’ and Premiers’ List of Aquatic Invasive Species webpage here.