Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks recently clarified its policy on illegal introductions of aquatic species and the restoration of streams that may be affected by these illegal introductions. Illegally introduced aquatic species can harm native, wild and stocked fish populations; spread disease; impact water quality and aquatic habitat; increase fishery management costs and diminish fishing opportunity in the state.
"The integrity of our streams and rivers is something most of us take for granted," said Chris Hunter, FWP Fisheries Division administrator. "People don’t realize that introductions of foreign aquatic species may irreversibly harm other fish species already in that habitat."
When FWP identifies an illegal introduction, it investigates, may prosecute the violation and will require restitution for the costs of removing the introduced species and re-establishing the original fishery.
"In some cases, we may be able to remove illegally stocked species and we will do so," Hunter said. "Though costly, this effort may not necessarily be completely effective." If FWP is unable to remove the illegal species, other options include stopping the stocking of the water, if the illegally introduced species uses the stocked fish for forage; implementing measures to reduce the unauthorized population; and the commercial harvest of the species.
FWP is responsible for preserving and protecting all fish and aquatic ecosystems of the state and is the sole entity that may legally stock, or permit stocking of, fish or aquatic wildlife in Montana waters.