According to the search warrant issued to Special Agent Steve Stoinski of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for the Nov. 5 search of Dan’s Fish in Sturgeon Bay, the investigation focuses on the illegal sale of lake trout and walleye harvested from the Great Lakes.
The 31-page warrant details how the USFWS set up an undercover wholesale fishing business called Upper Peninsula North Fish Co. (UPNFC) in L’Anse, Mich. The “business” opened in August 2012 and made more than 500 fish purchases, with approximately 400 of those purchases involving illegal fish. The “business” was closed in November 2013, but agents continued to make fish purchases through September of this year.
The warrant states that UPNFC began selling fish to Dan Schwarz of Dan’s Fish in Oct. 2012. “After March 2013, most of the fish purchased by UPNFC during the undercover operation, both legal and illegal, were sold to Dan’s Fish.” The total sold was “approximately 94,223 pounds of fish,” primarily whitefish and lean lake trout, but also walleye and pike. Of that, 44,500 pounds of the fish was illegal and was sold for $46,000 but had a fair market retail value of $146,084.
The warrant states that “Schwarz willingly purchased fish he was told had been transported or sold in violation of either tribal or Michigan state law.”
The search warrant also documents past infractions at Dan’s Fish, going back to 1995 with complaints about owner Schwarz illegally buying and selling chub roe, failing to accurately report transactions, and underreporting yellow perch purchases from an Ohio wholesaler.
Schwarz issued the following statement the day after the search warrant was issued: “Yesterday Dan’s Fish, Inc. learned it may become part of an investigation by the Department of Natural Resources, involving scores of companies in three states, of potential violations of regulatory issues. Dan’s Fish, Inc. takes great pride in the way it has always openly and honestly conducted its business, and is in full compliance with all state and federal laws. Dan Schwarz, president of Dan’s Fish Inc., assured DNR it will cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation to root out any regulatory violations. Mr. Schwarz stated, however, that no local restaurant or wholesale buyer is part of this regulatory issue. ‘We will continue to serve our community and the environment for many years to come.’”