Freeborn County District Court File No. T1-00-5287
Considered and decided by Hudson , Presiding Judge; Randall , Judge; and
Halbrooks , Judge.
1. The term "aquatic farm" as used in Minn. Stat. §á97A.255, subd. 2(a) (2000), applies exclusively to facilities that meet the definition of that term set forth in the Aquaculture Development Act (ADA), Minn. Stat. § 17.46-.4999 (2000).
2. Because Minn. Stat. §§ 97A.475, subd. 28(1), 97C.501, subd. 4(a) (2000) impose a differential license fee that favors resident minnow haulers and exporters over their nonresident counterparts, those provisions discriminate against interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Halbrooks, Judge
Affirmed in part and reversed in part
Appellant challenges his conviction of six counts of violating Minnesota state game and fish laws relating to the transport of minnows, arguing that (1) he successfully asserted the affirmative defense created by Minn. Stat. §á97A.255, subd. 2(a) (2000), and (2) the minnow-transport laws under which he was charged, Minn. Stat. §§á97C.501, subd. 4(a)-(b),.515 (2000), discriminate against interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause. We conclude that the affirmative defense asserted by appellant was not available to him. We further conclude that Minn. Stat. §§ 97C.501, subd. 4(b), and.515 are constitutional, and affirm appellant's convictions under those provisions. Because we conclude that Minn. Stat. §§ 97A.475, subd. 28(1), 97C.501, subd. 4(a) (2000) violate the Commerce Clause, we reverse appellant's convictions based on those provisions.
Between 1988 and September 2000, appellant Gary Kolla, an Ohio resident, worked as a truck driver for the Akron Wholesale Bait Farm (Akron Bait), an Ohio business. Appellant's job entailed driving a tractor-trailer fitted with fish-transport tanks from Ohio to baitfish wholesalers in South Dakota, loading the tanks with live minnows, and transporting the minnows back to Ohio. The truck appellant drove had Ohio license plates and a prominent sign on the cab reading "Akron Wholesale Bait Farm."
On August 16, 2000, appellant picked up loads of minnows at two baitfish wholesalers in Brookings, South Dakota, and drove east along Interstate 90 to a rest stop near Hayward, Minnesota. There, he parked next to a minnow-transport truck belonging to the Shell Rock River Fish Farm (Shell Rock), a Hayward baitfish wholesaler. Appellant and Shell Rock owner David Palmer transferred minnows from the Shell Rock truck to appellant's truck. Two Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers observed the transfer. When appellant drove off, one officer followed him east along Interstate 90 until he entered Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Commissioner of Natural Resources is charged by statute with enforcing those game and fish laws that "prohibit or allow importation, transportation, or possession of a wild animal." Minn. Stat. § 84.027, subd. 13 (2000); see also Minn. Stat. § 97A.011 (2000) (stating Minn. Stat. chs. 97A, 97B, 97C (2000) are the "game and fish laws"). Minnows are "[p]rotected wild animals." Minn. Stat. § 97A.015, subd. 39.
Minn. Stat. § 97C.501, subd. 4, provides:
(a) A nonresident may not transport minnows in a motor vehicle without an exporting minnow hauler license.
(b) A nonresident must obtain an exporting minnow hauler's vehicle license for the motor vehicle used to transport minnows.... The license must be conspicuously displayed in the vehicle.
(c) Only one nonresident motor vehicle license may be issued to an exporting minnow hauler.
Minn. Stat. § 97C.515 provides:
Subdivision 1. General prohibition. A person may not bring live minnows into the state except as provided in this section.
Subd. 2. Permit for transportation. A person may transport minnows through the state with a permit from the commissioner. The permit must state the name and address of the person, the number and species of minnows, the point of entry into the state, the destination, and the route through the state. The permit is not valid for more than 12 hours after it is issued.
"To transport" means "[to] caus[e]... wild animals to be carried or moved by a device and includes accepting or receiving wild animals for transportation or shipment." Minn. Stat. § 97A.015, subd. 48.
Upon investigation, the conservation officer who followed appellant to the Wisconsin border on August 16 discovered that neither appellant nor Akron Bait held any licenses or permits to transport minnows in Minnesota. The DNR took no action.
On September 27, 2000, appellant again loaded minnows into his truck at two baitfish wholesalers in Brookings and drove to the Shell Rock facility in Hayward, where he and David Palmer transferred minnows from the Shell Rock holding tanks into his own truck. Again, a DNR conservation officer observed this transfer. When appellant drove off, the conservation officer stopped him for failing to display an exporting minnow-hauler's vehicle license. The officer arrested appellant after learning that he did not possess any licenses or permits to transport minnows in or through Minnesota.
On the basis of appellant's August 16 and September 27 activity, the DNR charged him with two counts of failing to obtain an exporting minnow-hauler's license, Minn. Stat. § 97C.501, subd. 4(a); two counts of failing to obtain an exporting minnow-hauler's vehicle license, Minn. Stat. § 97C.501, subd. 4(b); and two counts of failing to obtain a 12-hour permit to ...