Bill targets invasive fish species
People who release them into state waters to face fines,
prison time if measure passes
By Gene Schabath
The Detroit News
CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP - People who release invasive aquatic
species such as bighead carp or snakefish into state waters
could go to prison for five years and pay as much as $250,000
in fines, under a bill approved last week by the state
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Dan Acciavatti, R-Chesterfield
Township, will go to the state Senate, which is considering
a similar measure.
Invasive species have been a problem in the Great Lakes
and in Lake St. Clair for 20 years, with the introduction
of exotic species such as the zebra mussel, round goby
and river ruffe.
Frank Schoonover, 73, of Harsens Island said he welcomes
the legislation but thinks a more serious threat is posed
by foreign freighters discharging their ballast waters
into the Great Lakes.
"They should be chlorinating their ballast waters
to kill invasive species they pick up in foreign waters,"
Schoonover said. Legislation covering foreign ships has
been proposed in Lansing.
The most dramatic example of foreign species invading
state waters is the zebra mussel. Introduced into the
St. Clair River in the mid-1980s, zebra mussels are now
in all of the Great Lakes and many of the state’s inland
lakes and have spread into the Mississippi River chain,
causing billions of dollars in damage and the decline
of some native aquatic species.
"I do a lot of scuba diving in Lake Huron and the
St. Clair River and the number of zebra mussels is unbelievable,"
But Acciavatti said a new generation of non-native fish
poses a more serious threat in the Great Lakes, such as
the bighead carp and Asian carp.
The bighead carp, which can grow to 100 pounds, have
caused environmental havoc in rivers and lakes in the
South and Midwest because they devour huge volumes of
food. Fish scientists fear they could cause a steep decline
in native fish species and wipe out large volumes of zooplankton,
a food source for young fish.
Two bighead carp were caught in fishing nets in 2001
off Pointe Pelee in Lake Erie, about 25 miles from Lake
St. Clair. Bighead carp escaped from fish farms in Arkansas
in 1994 and ended up in many tributaries of the Mississippi
Bighead carp are close to entering Lake Michigan through
the Chicago Sanitary and Boat Canal. Electrical barriers
have been installed in attempts to thwart the invasion.
Foreign species are such a problem that the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will open a national
center in Ann Arbor in the spring to research invasive