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Minaqua chief cited for not having license

OLIVIA -- The president of the state's largest fish farm was cited for not having an aquatic fish farm license by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Melburn Stocks of Willmar, president of Minaqua Fisheries Cooperative in Renville, appeared in district court in Olivia on April 18 for the misdemeanor rule violation.

Court records indicate that Stocks told the court that he had acquired a fish farm license in 2007. He indicated that he had not been notified subsequently of the need to purchase a license each year.

The court placed Stocks on probation. It will dismiss the charge if he successfully meets the terms of probation, which is to acquire the appropriate license.

He was also instructed that it is his responsibility to annually procure a license and not the state's responsibility to contact him to do so. The operation needs a $210 annual license and must pay a $15 per tank annual fee, according to the court records.

Minaqua has been raising tilapia at its Renville facility since 1997. It has a host of other permits, including a national water discharge permit through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. It raises an average of 1.8 million pounds of tilapia annually, according to the MPCA permit.

The citation was issued after a DNR fisheries staff person in St. Paul contacted an area conservation officer. Officer Angela Graham and Lee Sundmark, fisheries supervisor in Hutchinson, made a pre-announced visit to the Minaqua facility on March 3 and issued the citation after speaking to Stocks and touring the operation.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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