Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Imports and Interstate Transportation of Black Carp Banned

October 18, 2007


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today added black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) to the list of injurious fish under the Lacey Act. This action will prohibit live black carp, gametes, viable eggs and hybrids from being imported into or transported between the continental United States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territory or possession of the United States.

"This is an attempt to head off a potential problem," said H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Black carp have the potential to cause major damage to America's native mussel populations, and we want to get out in front of the issue now. Stopping the transport of these fish is crucial to the future of our native aquatic species."

Black carp, also known as snail carp, black amur, or Chinese roach, is a freshwater fish that inhabits lakes and lower reaches of large, fast moving rivers and associated backwaters, including canals and reservoirs. Black carp can grow to more than three feet in length, weigh 33 pounds and individuals are known to live to at least 15 years of age. Adult black carp are bottom feeders that almost exclusively eat mollusks (mussels and snails) when available, but can eat insects, shrimp, commercial fish feeds and aquatic plants.

Powerful teeth permit the black carp to crush the thick shells of large mollusks, and one fish can consume a few pounds of mussels each day. The mouth of an adult black carp is much larger than most native mollusk-eating fish -- presenting a new threat to native mussel species.

Black carp originally entered the United States in 1973 as a "contaminant" in imported shipments of grass carp or other Chinese carp stocks. The second introduction of black carp took place in the early 1980s when it was used in fish production ponds in southeastern U.S. for biological control of a parasite, and as a potential food fish. Since that time black carp have become more commonly used and transported, particularly during the late 1990's to control another species of snail-borne parasite at primarily catfish and hybrid striped bass farms. 

The Service received a petition from the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resources Association (MICRA) to list the black carp under the injurious wildlife provision of the Lacey Act. The document outlined potential impacts of black carp on native freshwater mussels and snails in the Mississippi River basin. A second petition containing the same request was received by the Service and signed by 25 members of Congress representing the Great Lakes region. A follow-up letter indicated seven additional legislators supported the petition.

Live black carp, gametes, viable eggs and hybrids can now be imported only under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit for scientific, medical, educational, or zoological purposes, or without a permit by Federal agencies solely for their own use; permits will also be required for the interstate transportation of live black carp or viable eggs currently held in the United States, for scientific, medical, educational, or zoological purposes.

A listing does not prohibit intrastate transport or possession of live fish within States, where not prohibited by the State.  Any regulation pertaining to the use of these species within States continues to be the responsibility of each State.  This injurious wildlife listing does not prohibit the importation or transport of dead black carp.

For additional information about injurious species and black carp go to these Branch of Invasive Species web pages:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices, 64 Fishery Resource Offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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