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Fish & Wildlife > Fishing > Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) > Addition of AIS Fish to Illegal Possession List Addition of AIS Fish to Illegal Possession List

FISHERIES REGULATIONS

ADDITION OF AQUATIC NUISANCE SPECIES (SEVERAL ASIAN CARPS, WHITE PERCH, AND SNAKEHEAD FISH) TO THE LIST OF FISH THAT ARE ILLEGAL TO POSSESS LIVE IN INDIANA

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Executive Summary

The IDNR has statutory responsibility for regulating the importation of fish (IC 14-22-25-2) and regulates possession of live exotic nuisance species of fish (312 IAC 9-6-7). Listed fish are illegal to import, possess, or release into public waters without a permit. As of December 1, 2002, the department issued an emergency rule that modifies the list of fish species to include the following species:

1) black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus);

2) bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis);

3) silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix);

4) white perch (Morone americana); and

5) snakehead fish (28 species in the Family Channidae).

Upon review of the results of public comment, the Natural Resources Commission adopted the changes as a permanent rule on May 20, 2003. The text of the rule is presented at the end of this document.

Due to grave concerns about Asian carps spreading throughout Indiana and invading the Great Lakes, it is essential to immediately join other regional states in instituting regulations for prevention and control of these species in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River drainages. White perch have recently invaded inland waters from Lake Michigan and have rapidly dominated fisheries in several northwest Indiana lakes. Given the recent experience of states like Maryland and to complement federal actions, state regulations are needed to reduce the potential for release of snakehead fish currently in Indiana for use in the aquarium or food fish industry.

Anglers who catch one of these fish do not violate the regulation if the fish is killed immediately. Anyone possessing these fish must euthanize and properly dispose of their stock. Humane methods of euthanizing fish include placing them in a container of water in a freezer. State fisheries biologists will receive aquarium fish, if individuals are not capable of euthanizing them. An Aquaculture Permit can be issued for live possession of these fish for medical, educational, or scientific research purposes. Properly accredited zoological parks are exempt from permitting.

These regulatory actions minimize the threat of several exotic fish entering Indiana waters through aquaculture, transportation, unintentional release, or intentional release of unwanted fish by aquarium owners or anglers. This language will complement the proposed rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listing all species of snakeheads (family Channidae) and black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) as injurious under the federal Lacey Act. The final federal rule prohibiting the importation and interstate transportation of snakehead fish went into effect on October 4, 2002. The federal comment period on black carp ended on September 30, 2002.

Justification for Permanent Regulations

1. Characteristics of Asian carps

Similar to the closely-related silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), the bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) is a filter feeder that prefers large river habitats. These so-called Asian carps have been used in many parts of the world as a food fish and sometimes introduced in combination with silver carp into sewage lagoons and aquaculture ponds (Jennings 1988). Although a few of the 18 licensed carp dealers in Indiana have occasionally requested the approval of bighead carp for sale as a food fish, the department has issued no aquaculture permits that allow sale of black, bighead or silver carp.

The impact of these two species in the United States is not adequately known. The largest bighead carp reported from Indiana waters was 53.5 pounds, but they are known to reach 90 pounds elsewhere in the United States. Silver carp reach lengths of three feet and weights of 60 pounds. Because bighead carp and silver carp are planktivorous and can attain a large size, Laird and Page (1996) suggested these carp have the potential to deplete zooplankton populations. As Laird and Page pointed out, a decline in the availability of plankton can lead to reductions in populations of native species that rely on plankton for food, including all larval fishes, some adult fishes, and native mussels. In some of the big pools along the Mississippi River, Asian carps have multiplied so quickly that in less than a decade they make up 90 percent or more of the fish life. Several species of fish with high recreational and commercial value are most at risk from such competition in large rivers and Lake Michigan including paddlefish, bigmouth buffalo, salmon, walleye, and perch. To date, populations of bighead carp have been reported from lower portions of the Wabash River and some tributaries up to Huntington Dam, on the Tippecanoe River up to Oakdale dam (forms Lake Freeman), lower portions of the White River to Williams Dam on the East Fork of White River, and every Indiana tributary or sub-tributary of the Ohio River, up to the first dam that blocks upstream movement. Silver carp are likely to be distributed similarly to bighead carp. Silver carp have been taken from the lower portions of the Wabash River at least to Lafayette and every tributary of the Ohio River, but have not yet been collected from East Fork of White River.

The black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) is a bottom-dwelling molluscivore that has been used by U.S. fish farmers to prey on and control disease-carrying snails in their production ponds. Black carp are superficially very similar in appearance to the grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella). The grass carp is legal to use for aquatic plant control in private ponds in Indiana as a genetically modified fish that cannot reproduce. As such, Nico and Williams (1996) expressed concern that if black carp become more common in U.S. aquaculture, there will be an increased risk that the species be misidentified and unintentionally introduced to some areas. It is highly probable that black carp would feed on and reduce populations of native mussels and snails (Nico and Williams 1996). There are 26 species of mussels listed as endangered or threatened in Indiana, including 10 federally endangered species, which would likely be further affected by black carp introductions. Sterilization of black carp for aquaculture use does not eliminate the ecological risk posed by these fish (USFWS 2002). A sterile adult black carp is capable of eating 3 to 4 pounds of mollusks a day and can live up to 15 years. The methods used to produce sterile fish do not guarantee 100 percent sterility, meaning that a small percentage of fertile fish may be found among groups of sterile fish. To date, there have been no reports of black carp found in Indiana waters.

2. Characteristics of snakehead fish

The reason for promulgation of these emergency rules stems from the widespread recent reports of releases of piranha and other aquarium fish in various types of waterbodies throughout the state. If snakehead fishes (28 species in the family Channidae) are also being released into natural waterways by aquarium owners, severe environmental damage could result. Because of their tolerance to a wide range of environmental conditions, reproductive capability, and aggressive nature, it is crucial that immediate action be taken to protect aquatic resources from the potentially devastating effects of these invaders. Snakeheads have been released or escaped into the wild in California, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Rhode Island. These fish have been reported at aquarium shops in Indiana. To date, there have been no reports of snakeheads in public waters of Indiana.

3. Characteristics of white perch

White perch (Morone americana) are naturally found in brackish waters of the Atlantic coast, but invaded the lower Great Lakes during the late 1980s. The fish is a food fish and provides angling opportunities, but tends to stunt and become undesirable when over-population occurs in freshwater lakes (Scott and Crossman 1990). Through competition with native species, predation on fish eggs, preying on young fish, and hybridization with white bass, white perch can quickly become the dominant species in freshwater lakes. White perch are thought to cause declines in walleye (Schaeffer and Margraf 1987), yellow perch (Parrish and Margraf 1990), and white bass (Todd 1986) in the Great Lakes region. White perch have been collected in Indiana from Lake Michigan and more recently from Wolf Lake and Cedar Lake in Lake County and Koontz Lake in Marshall County. Although white perch may have migrated from Lake Michigan to Wolf Lake, this fish was probably illegally stocked in Cedar Lake and Koontz Lake within the past five years. The invasion by white perch can degrade fishing quality. A 2001 fisheries survey showed that white perch had rapidly overwhelmed the fish community in Cedar Lake, constituting eighty-eight percent (88%) by number and 67% by weight of the fish caught. Similar to Cedar Lake, white perch was the most abundant fish by number (49%) and weight (25%) in a 1999 survey of Wolf Lake. White perch in these Indiana lakes grow to a maximum size of 11.5 inches and average weight of 7-13 ounces.

4. Effects of invasive exotic nuisance fish

The consequences of releasing snakehead fishes, specified Asian carp species, and white perch and their subsequent establishment in Indiana are potentially great:

• The likelihood of release, escape, and spread of these fish is high;
• These fish could negatively impact Indiana commercial and recreational fisheries through predation and direct competition for food and other resources, including potential for a new disruption to the fishery in the Great Lakes, a fishery worth $4 billion annually;
• Exotic fish can transport parasites and diseases, and the effects of these on our native fish populations is unknown;
• Threatened and endangered species of fish, amphibians, and mollusks would likely suffer negative impacts; and
• The impact upon IDNR operations and budget could be great, with large manpower and monetary demands for surveillance and response programs; and
• Once established, the control or eradication of nuisance fish and associated diseases may be extremely costly or impossible.

Due to grave concerns about Asian carps spreading throughout the state and invading the Great Lakes, it is essential to immediately join other regional states in instituting regulations for prevention and control of these species in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River drainages. White perch have recently invaded inland waters from Lake Michigan and have dominated lake fisheries in a few years. Regulations to prevent snakeheads from entering Indiana via the aquarium or food fish industry and to reduce the potential for the release and spread of these organisms in Indiana are also necessary immediately.

4. Authority for actions

The IDNR has responsibility for regulating the importation of fish under IC 14-22-25-2 and for possession of live fish under 312 IAC 9-6-7. The proposed amendment implements regulations to minimize the threat of snakehead fishes, white perch, and three Asian carps entering Indiana waters through aquaculture, transportation, unintentional release, or release of unwanted, oversize fish by aquarium owners or anglers. This language will complement the proposed rule from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listing all species of snakeheads (family Channidae) and black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) as injurious under the federal Lacey Act. The federal comment period on black carp ended on September 30, 2002. The final federal rule prohibiting the importation and interstate transportation of snakehead fish went into effect on October 4, 2002. The rule was effective on publication and can be found at http://policy.fws.gov/library/02fr62193.html. As of September, Illinois joined Kentucky and at least 12 other states making snakehead fish illegal to possess.

5. References for fish identification and ecological impact

Resources available for identifying the fish and predicting ecological impacts are available in print and on the internet. William Pfleiger's "Fishes of Missouri" has clear descriptions for bighead carp, silver carp, and white perch. Another source giving descriptions for bighead, silver and white perch is "Non-native fishes inhabiting the streams and lakes of Illinois" C.A. Laird and L.M. Page. 1996. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin Volume 35, Article 1.

There are no good external characteristics for telling black carp from grass carp. The only method is to extract and observe the pharyngeal arches (bones in the throat). An excellent description with pictures is presented in River Crossings Volume 11 (3), May/June 2002. This newsletter can be downloaded from the MICRA webpage by clicking on the link "River Crossings" in the left column and selecting this volume at: http://wwwaux.cerc.cr.usgs.gov/MICRA/

Other websites with descriptions, ecology and pictures are:

White perch identification (comparison to white bass) http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/exotics/wperch.html

Snakehead fish identification (comparison to native bowfin) http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fish/infish/regulate/snakehead-bowfin.htm

US Fish & Wildlife Service Black Carp Fact Sheet http://www.fws.gov/blackcarp-b.pdf

University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute “Fishes of Wisconsin” (descriptions) http://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/greatlakesfish/framefish.html.

Invasive Species in the Great Lakes Region http://www.great-lakes.net/envt/flora-fauna/invasive/invasive.html

An excellent resource for news stories on aquatic invasives species can be found at: http://www.protectyourwaters.net/.

PERMANENT FISHING REGULATIONS

312 IAC 9-6-7 Exotic fish

Authority: IC 14-22-2-6

Affected: IC 14-22-2-3

Sec. 7. (a) Except as otherwise provided under this section, a person must not import, possess, propagate, buy, sell, barter, trade, transfer, loan, or release into public or private waters any of the following live fish or fry of live fish, or their viable eggs or genetic material:

(1) Exotic catfish.
(2) Bighead carp.
(3) Black carp
(4) Silver carp.
(5) White perch.
(6) Snakehead.
(7) Rudd.
(8) Ruffe.
(9) Tubenose goby.
(10) Round goby.
(11) A hybrid or genetically altered fish of any of these species.

(b) A person who takes a fish listed in subsection (a) does not violate this section if the fish listed in subsection (a) is killed immediately upon capture.

(c) This section does not apply to the following:

(1) The use of a fish by a properly accredited zoological park as defined in 312 IAC 9-5-8(i);

(2) During the lawful interstate shipment of fish through the state of Indiana if the fish are not unloaded or do not leave the control of a common carrier;

(3) A person who lawfully possesses an exotic fish under a permit issued under 312 IAC 9-10-17 for medical, educational, or scientific purposes.

(d) A person who possesses federally listed injurious species must also comply with 18 USC 42 and 50 CFR 16. (Natural Resources Commission; 312 IAC 9-6-7; filed May 12, 1997, 10:00 a.m.: 20 IR 2716; filed May 28, 1998, 5:14 p.m.: 21 IR 3719)

IDNR Contact:

Bill James, Division of Fish & Wildlife, tel. 317-232-4092 or bjames@dnr.state.in.us.

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