State officials to create
new rules governing exotic fish
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Officials with the
state Department of Natural Resources are working on an
emergency rule to govern non-native exotic fish that are
popular with pet owners.
More than a dozen states, including Illinois,
already have banned the possession and sale of snakeheads,
an Asian fish that can grow up to 3 feet long and travel
from pond to pond.
And while the odd fish has yet to be found
in Indiana waters, other non-native aquatic species that
threaten native species have been found, according to
Gwen White, program specialist with the Department of
The possession of non-native species currently
is not illegal in Indiana, but the department is developing
an emergency rule to govern ownership, White said.
The DNR already receives many calls from
people who have caught piranhas and the larger pacu, neither
of which can survive the winter in Indiana waters.
"We know that people are releasing them
into public waters," White said, calling the practice
"We depend on pet owners to be responsible,
but we can do something only if somebody calls us early,"
she told the Post-Tribune of Merrillville for a story
Pet dealers in northwest Indiana say most
fish enthusiasts follow the rules, but that the talk among
wildlife officials and distributors led them to stop selling
snakeheads even before Illinois took action last week.
"I haven't had any in six months," Valparaiso
Pet & Hobby owner Sharon Henley said. Her store does sell
piranhas, she said. "Tropical fish are a large part of
my business. They are relaxing to watch and easy to take
Terry Haley, owner of Terry's Aquarium &
Pet Center in Hammond, noted another reason for the popularity
of snakeheads and piranhas: Some people enjoy watching
them do just what worries fish biologists.
"Some people like to watch 'em eat goldfish.
You can buy 'feeders' that are kept just for this purpose,"
Haley also said that people sometimes bring
fish that have grown too large to him, instead of dumping
the fish. He said he tries to place them with hobbyists
who have large aquariums.