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Illinois: Importation of Non-Tropical Native Fishes from VHS-Affected Regions Illegal Without Permit and Health Certificate

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 05:34 PM

Dear Forum-Goers,

In 2012, I contacted the Illinois DNR about bringing some native fish to Illinois, as I have some friends there who wanted some fish from me there. At the time, I was told that the import of wild native fishes from Wisconsin to Illinois was only legal with an Illinois Non-Resident Aquatic Life Dealer's Permit and a Health Certificate verifying that the fish were VHS-free. The VHS Health Certificate Test requires that 60 individual fish per species, per lot be sacrificed for the test. A "lot" is defined as all fish of one species from one fish tank, or "system". A "system" being a series of interconnected tanks that have water flowing between them. I do not know if fish from an outdoor pond are considered to be one lot, as I do not have any ponds and was not concerned with that aspect of the law at the time.

In order to have some fish to import, there must be within the lot more than the 60 fish sacrificed, obviously. Also, the VHS test has an expiration date of, I believe, two weeks. As I do not have any ponds, or any systems large enough to produce lots of 60+ fish of one species, at that time, I was not able to export any fish to Illinois. I was told by the Illinois DNR at that time, though, that captive-spawned fish were exempt from the regulations. Therefore, I set out to captive-spawn some of my fish.

This year, I have been very successful in spawning my Spotfin Shiners (Cyprinella spiloptera). I have raised some up to a size large enough that they can survive on adult fish foods, and in a community tank. Recently, I re-contacted the Illinois DNR to verify that the captive-spawned fish exemption still existed so that I could bring some of my Spotfins to my friends in Illinois. The Illinois DNR said that I cannot. They have stated, and shown me in their administrative code online, that ANY non-tropical native fish from VHS-affected regions MUST be sold while in the possession of an Illinois DNR Non-Resident Aquatic Life Dealer's Permit, and be accompanied by a Fish Health Certificate.

Here's the code online:
Section 875.20 Susceptible Species
a) For purposes of this Part, susceptible species are:

1) those species designated by USDA-APHIS in the Federal Order update of April 2, 2008;

2) Additional species known to be carriers of VHSv that present significant risk to the aquatic resources of Illinois;

3) hybrids (offspring) of listed species for which both parent species are listed; and

4) all species that originate from affected regions.

"Affected Regions" being:
Section 875.10 Definitions
"Affected Regions" – those areas designated by USDA-APHIS as Affected or At-Risk Regions. Currently, these are the U.S. states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and the Canadian Provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

VHS Main Regulations Page:

The IDNR did tell me over the phone that TROPICAL native fishes, i.e. ones that could not survive a winter in Illinois' climate, are allowed to be imported without a Health Certificate. The person exporting the fish to Illinois may need a permit from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, however.

My primary contact at Illinois DNR regarding these issues has been:
Blake Ruebush
Aquatic Nuisance Species and Aquaculture Program
Natural Resource Specialist
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield,IL 62702-1271

As a note, Blake has been very helpful, despite this being very frustrating.

Is anyone else familiar with these regs? I haven't seen them advertised anywhere, though this is such a "niche" hobby that I don't know where you would?


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