Suspected black market fishing operations on two Indian reservations in northern Minnesota are under federal investigation.
Enforcement agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service led the so-called 'takedown' of illegal netting and walleye-selling operations on the Red Lake and Leech Lake reservations last weekend. The takedown also involved state and tribal conservation officers.
No arrests were made, but an investigation continues, said Jeanne Cooney is a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorneys office in Minneapolis.
Netting walleye is illegal under federal law, and those claims are taken seriously by the federal government. The Red Lake tribe no longer allows netting on its reservation. Leech Lake band members are allowed to net walleye for personal consumption only.
Leech Lake Tribal Attorney Frank Bibeau says black market fishing hasn't been a big problem in the past, but he's not surprised it's happening.
"I suspect that anybody who's living in poverty is doing things to make a living or something. And I suspect that other people at the other end of the market who want fish, are willing to buy," Bibeau said. "You have to have an outlet that is prepared to actually purchase them to do this. That's the other side of this coin. There's somebody who is participating and creating a marketplace where these guys are filling the request."