Authorities net ring of illegal fish traffickers in Wisconsin, Michigan

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Feds are finally netting their catch after uncovering a trafficking ring moving tons of smelly contraband across the Great Lakes in Wisconsin and Michigan. The culprits - fish buyers and sellers who were trafficking illegal trout, sturgeon, whitefish and walleye out of the Great Lakes.

Yep, for two years, U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife agents went undercover to investigate. Turns out something fishy was going at businesses in Michigan and Wisconsin, including one in Door County, Wisconsin, a popular tourist area.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports agents set up a fake fish shop called UP North Fish Co. in L'Anse, Michigan, where they sold and bought illegally harvested fish from Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron.

Agents collected evidence by recording conversations. Warrants allowed for agents to raid the businesses that participated in illegal sales, including Dan's Fish, a popular store in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

Dan Schwarz of Dan's Fish had more than 50 sales at UP North, totaling 94,000 pounds of fish valued at $150,000. Nearly half of these transactions moved illegal fish. Some of it came from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, which cannot commercially harvest according to tribal law.

Documents show the tribal connection was disclosed to Schwarz, but he still purchased the fish multiple times as well as untagged fish, the Journal Sentinel reports.

In one recorded conversation, Schwarz told an agent, "I just buy fish. ... I don't know where they came from, I don't know how they got there, I don't care," the Associated Press reports.

The Door County Advocate reports Wisconsin DNR agents searched Dan's Fish earlier this month. Other businesses in Michigan are also under investigation.

The investigation is looking at whether the businesses violated the Lacey Act, a federal law that limits the commercial trade of wildlife that has been taken illegally. Violators face felony charges carrying penalties up to five years in prison.

No charges have been filed yet, and warrants only recently became unsealed.

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