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MDIFW: Illegal Pacu Captured in Limestone Brook; Man Charged

July 27, 2010
Inland Fisheries & Wildlife

MAINE DEPARTMENT OF INLAND FISHERIES & WILDLIFE 284 State St., SHS 41, Augusta, ME 04333 www.mefishwildlife.com Main Number: 287-8000

AUGUSTA -- A Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist and two game wardens recently captured an exotic Pacu fish from an unnamed brook in Limestone, and a Limestone man has been charged with illegally stocking Maine’s waters and possession of a restricted species of fish without a permit.

The fish was spotted by a Town of Limestone public works employee while inspecting a culvert at Mill Road, northeast of downtown. Based on an investigation, it was determined only one of the exotic fish was released into a small, shallow pond upstream of the road crossing.

The nearly 7-pound Pacu was captured on July 14 when MDIF&W Fisheries Biologist Frank Frost and District Game Wardens Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ed Christie located the fish swimming sluggishly around the small, shallow pool upstream of the road culvert. The outlet of the culvert was blocked by a screen, for beaver control, otherwise, the fish would have likely escaped downstream into a large private pond that eventually drains to Limestone Stream.

As a result of the investigation, Joe LaPierre, 34, of Limestone, has been charged with illegally stocking waters and possessing a restricted species of fish without a permit. Both charges are Class E crimes that carry penalties of a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $10,000.

Pacu are a Characid fish native to South America. Characids are a large, diverse family of fish that number at least 1,000 species, many of which are not yet fully defined. Pacu are described as being omnivorous, commonly eating crustaceans, insects, fruit, and decaying vegetation.

The Limestone Stream drainage has had two noted introductions of exotic fishes in the recent past. In 2001, largemouth bass were discovered at Durepo Lake, only several hundred yards from the Pacu capture this month. The Department followed up with a costly chemical reclamation that was successful in eradicating the new species. However, smallmouth bass were illegally stocked the very next year and are well established there today. The 2001 restoration project cost MDIF&W more than $70,000 to reestablish the brook trout fishery.

“The release of illegally imported or exotic fish can cause habitat damage, introduce exotic fish parasites and pathogens to native fish and aquatic wildlife, and non native fishes can colonize Maine waters, as in the examples of Durepo Lake,” according to Dr. G. Russ Danner, State Fish Pathologist. “The costs to natural resource agencies are immense, both directly and indirectly.”

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife encourages people who own wildlife or fish and can no longer care for them to call the Department’s main office in Augusta or one of its regional offices for instructions on how to move them to a safe, preferred location. Please, do not leave them outdoors or put them in Maine’s waters. Maine’s natural resources are a crucial part of the state’s economy and heritage; such reckless acts could threaten the balance in our current ecosystem.

People with information regarding fish and wildlife violations are encouraged to call 1-800-ALERT-US or go to www.maineogt.org. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

To view a list of Maine’s unrestricted species, please visit http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/species/unrestricted_species.htm

For information on illegal fish stockings and their threats to Maine’s waters, please visit http://www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/illegal_stocking.htm

MEDIA: For more information, contact IF&W spokesperson Deborah Turcotte at 287-6008 or 592-1164