St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- More charges are expected to be filed against 21 suspects in connection with the illegal sale and dumping of thousands of game fish in Northern Minnesota.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the suspects are facing up to 35 misdemeanor and 6 gross misdemeanor charges in six counties in northern Minnesota. Fines could reach into the tens of thousands.
The charges involve both illegal purchases and sales of the game fish, taken from Cass, Leech, Red and Winnibigoshish lakes on the Red Lake or Leech Lake Indian reservations.
“This is a troubling case because it involved large numbers of people and a significant number of fish being illegally bought and sold,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “The investigation should serve notice that the illegal commercialization of walleye and waste of game fish will not be tolerated in Minnesota.”
Last week, the U.S. attorney’s office also announced four federal indictments filed against 10 tribal individuals in the same case. These 10 individuals are in addition to the 21 facing state and tribal charges.
According to the DNR, while band members can legally harvest fish for subsistence, they cannot sell them for profit. The Red Lake Band of Chippewa has a legal commercial walleye fishery, but band members can only sell their fish to the tribe-operated processor.
This three-year special investigation, known as Operation Squarehook, involved about 60 officers from the DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and tribal authorities from the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
This is Minnesota’s largest case of illegal fish commercialization in two decades.
Posted to the web by Krista Burns