Carp incidents keep fisheries experts busy

GENESEE COUNTY — While local waterways don’t seem to have trouble that continues in mid-Michigan bodies, in its ever vigilant efforts to keep the state’s waterways free of invasive species such as Asian carp, the state’s DNR fisheries biologists and law enforcement agencies have been kept busy recently. After receiving an anonymous photo report indicating the presence of Grass carp in Marrs Lake in Lenawee County on May 16, the Fisheries Division is investigating the report. The state says that Grass carp are a prohibited species as defined in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act 451 of 1994, Section 324.41301 and are illegal to possess, sell or stock live in Michigan.

A news release stated that “Grass carp are considered an Asian carp species and, while they do not pose the same risk to Michigan’s waters as bighead or silver carp, they are of concern as they eat beneficial types of aquatic plants and alter good fish habitat.”

Fisheries officials added that Grass carp have been rarely found in Michigan waters and that previous cases usually were a result of illegal stocking in Michigan ponds or movements from other states where stocking genetically altered triploid fish for aquatic vegetation control is allowed. While other states allow the stocking of triploid fish because they believe the fish have a low probability of reproduction, Michigan does not share that philosophy and believes the sterilization process is not 100-percent effective. “Given their potential negative effects on good fish habitat, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources strongly opposes the use of triploid fish in both public and private waters,” officials said.

The state of Michigan’s Asian Carp Management Plan outlines a goal to gather information from waters where grass carp have been detected. An assessment is planned for Marrs Lake later this month to determine if grass carp are present. Officials said if Grass carp are found, an analysis will be conducted to determine if these fish are reproducing naturally. If found, a Grass Carp Management Plan for Marrs Lake will be developed after the assessment results are analyzed.

Fisheries Division has been communicating with the waterfront residents of Marrs Lake for assistance on this matter and will continue to closely coordinate with them.

On June 5, Attorney General Bill Schuette and DNR Director Rodney Stokes announced that the Attorney General’s Criminal Division has charged an Arkansas man with 12 felony counts of possessing and selling live Asian carp in violation of state law protecting against the spread of invasive species. A press release stated that the charges follow a joint investigation by the DNR’s Special Investigation Unit and Commercial Fish Enforcement Unit.

“Once destructive Asian carp enter our waterways, the damage cannot be undone,” said Schuette. “We must remain vigilant and use every tool available to protect Michigan’s tourism and sport-fishing industries from this dangerous threat.”

“Invasive species in general and the Asian carp in particular pose one of the most serious current threats to the economy and the ecology of the Great Lakes,” said Stokes. “The excellent work in this case by the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division is one more indication that we will continue to vigilantly protect the lakes from this menace.”

It is alleged David Shane Costner, 42, of Harrisburg, Ark., possessed 110 grass carp fish, a type of invasive Asian carp. The fish were allegedly transported and sold from tanks housed in a semi-truck furnished by parent company Farley’s Arkansas Pondstockers. Costner allegedly traveled around the state, conducting sales of the illegal carp from store parking lots. The trucks also contained live fish species permitted under state law, including channel catfish, largemouth bass and fathead minnows. On May 16, 2012, Costner allegedly sold two of the live grass carp to undercover DNR investigators in Midland.

Stokes said the DNR has been aggressively monitoring traffic in restricted species since the threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes became apparent.

Schuette filed the following charges against Costner today in Midland’s 75th District Court:

•10 counts of possession of an illegal species, a felony punishable by two years in prison and a fine of $2,000-$20,000 for each violation; and

•Two counts of selling an illegal species, a felony punishable by two years in prison and a fine of $2,000-$20,000 for each violation.

Arrangements are being made for Costner to surrender himself to the proper authorities. Arraignment will be scheduled in Midland’s 75th District Court at a later date.

Citizens who are aware of the trade or movement of any restricted species of fish in Michigan are asked to call the DNR’s 24- hour Report All Poaching (RAP) Hotline at 800-292-7800. — Lisa Paine

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