Platteville fish dealer convicted in Wisconsin’s first invasive carp bust | Science & Environment

In the first such case in Wisconsin, a Platteville fish dealer has been convicted of selling Asian carp, a pervasive and destructive invasive species.

Ping Li, 38, pleaded guilty last month in Grant County and Dane County circuit courts to two misdemeanors and 17 non-criminal violations, according to court records, and was fined more than $13,000.

The violations included possession of illegal fish and using an unmarked van to transport fish as well as failure to maintain records of who caught the fish and where they were sold.


The largest tract — more than 1,900 acres — adjoins the Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area, a 6,600-acre preserve just east of Castle Rock Lake.

The charges, filed in 2020, stemmed from a two-year investigation by Department of Natural Resources wardens, who used undercover work, surveillance and GPS trackers to crack the case.

The types of carp involved in this case — bighead, silver and grass — are different from German or common carp, which have lived in Wisconsin since the mid-1800s.

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Lt. Robert Stroess, a DNR warden who heads trade enforcement for commercial fishing, said in a statement the species are on top of the state’s “Least Wanted” list because they destroy the habitats of native fish.

Wisconsin and neighboring state laws require these invasive carp, which can survive for more than a day out of water, to be gutted or have the gill coverings severed to ensure they are dead.

“The laws around the Great Lakes states are in place to minimize the threat of these species finding their way into new waterways at the hands of humans,” Stroess said. “The laws serve as important protections for our native Wisconsin fish.”

The DNR began investigating Li, owner of Li Fish Farm LLC, based on a complaint that Asian Midway Foods in Madison was selling live carp.


Judge: Wisconsin Natural Resources Board holding subject to open records law

Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell declined to dismiss the case, ruling that Prehn is in fact a government authority and his communications are subject to public records law.

According to the complaint, Li illegally sold more than 9,000 pounds of carp — much of it intact — in 2018 alone. Stroess said his use of an unmarked van made it more difficult to identify it as a wholesale fish delivery vehicle.

Invasive carp have been advancing north since escaping into the Mississippi River from southern fish farms in the 1970s. In some fisheries they account for more than 90% of the living organisms.

Bighead carp are considered a threat to the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing industry. Silver carp, which can weigh up to 60 pounds, are known for leaping out of the water, creating a hazard for boaters.

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