Incidents hightlight new carp concerns

Lake Orion, Mich. — While national attention has focused on the threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes through the Mississippi River and the Chicago Sanitary Canal system, concerns are rising that the invasive fish could be sneaking their way into the state with the help of unscrupulous humans.

Two recent incidents in southern Michigan highlight that fact.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Criminal Division  charged an Arkansas man with 12 felony counts of possessing and selling live Asian carp in Michigan, a violation of state law protecting against the spread of invasive species.

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,”  Schuette said in a release. “We must remain vigilant and use every tool available to protect Michigan’s tourism and sport-fishing industries from this dangerous threat.”

David Shane Costner, 42, of Harrisburg, Ark., allegedly possessed 110 Asian grass carp in tanks on a semi-truck, which were allegedly being sold in store parking lots around the state. The trucks belong to Farley’s Arkansas Pondstockers. 

The trucks also contained live fish species that are legal to possess in Michigan, including channel catfish and largemouth bass.

“This is the first case of sales that has been charged by the state,” said Joy Yearout, a spokesperson for the AG’s office. “We found out about it from a citizen who saw (the truck) and called us. Citizens are pretty aware of the Asian carp situation and are concerned.”

Costner allegedly sold two of the live Asian grass carp to undercover DNR investigators in Midland. He has been charged with 10 counts of possession of an illegal species, a felony punishable by two years in prison and a fine of $2,000 to $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 to $20,000 for each violation.

“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 DNR Director Rodney 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.”

In the other incident, on May 16, the DNR received anonymous photos alleging the presence of Asian grass carp in Marrs Lake in Lenawee County. 

Grass carp, just like bighead and silver carp, are illegal to possess, sell, or stock live in Michigan.

According to the DNR, grass carp do not pose the same risk as bighead or silver carp, but  possession of live grass carp is outlawed in the state because they eat beneficial types of aquatic plants and alter good fish habitat.

Grass carp have been found in Michigan waters in light numbers, but there has been no indication they are reproducing. Officials believe they entered the  state through illegal stocking in ponds and lakes, or movements from other states where the use of genetically altered triploid (sterile) fish are used to control weeds. Some states allow stocking of triploid fish, the DNR says, because they believe there is a low probability of reproduction; the sterilization process is not 100-percent effective.

An assessment of the fishery in  Marrs Lake was planned for June 18-21, to determine if grass carp are present. If they are, an analysis will be conducted to determine if reproduction is occurring and if management actions are warranted.

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