LANSING—State lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday that addresses continued threats posed by the illegal introduction, possession, use, transfer or sale of prohibited aquatic invasive species, said Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, lead sponsor of the eight-bill package.
“Aquatic invasive species present a significant risk to the ecosystem and overall health of the Great Lakes,” said Kowall, author of Senate Bill 795. “As more and more invasions have been tracked in the region, it has become apparent that unless sweeping measures are taken, the health of the basin, its habitat and the fishery will continue to decline.”
An invasive species is one that is not native to an area and whose introduction causes, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.
SBs 795 – 802 would increase the fines for the illegal possession of aquatic invasive species; allow for the seizure of all equipment used in the introduction, possession and sale of these species; allow for the suspension of related commercial licenses; and suspend the responsible party’s right to fish and hunt in Michigan.
Sen. Howard Walker, sponsor of SB 800, expressed his appreciation for the measures.
“This package of bills is a great follow-up to the legislation we passed three years ago on this issue,” said Walker, R-Traverse City. “The stories we’ve heard about semis coming into our state with loads of prohibited species should concern everyone. Passing these bills should make people think long and hard about transporting these aquatic species across our border.”
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has reported that the invasive species bighead and silver carp are spreading to lakes, rivers and streams in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes region. They are not yet established here but are well-suited to the climate of the region.
Biologists expect that if these carp establish themselves, they will significantly disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes, diminish fishing opportunities and reduce the desire for recreational boating activities in areas inhabited by these fish.
Michigan law currently bans the possession of a select list of aquatic invasive species and expressly prohibits the possession, sale, transport or transfer of those prohibited species. However, there recently has been an increase in the trafficking of these species.
“Increasing the fines and enacting other penalties will help to serve as a serious deterrent for the recent increase in this activity,” said Kowall.
- Increases jail time from two to three years and maximum dollar fines from $20,000 to $100,000 for the possession of a prohibited aquatic invasive species;
- Provides for the seizure and forfeiture of a vehicle, equipment or other property used in a criminal violation involving an aquatic species; and
- Requires the court to order any commercial fishing license to be suspended for one year for a person who commits a criminal violation involving an aquatic species. For a second and subsequent violation, the licenses would be revoked.
SBs 795 – 802 have been referred to the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee for consideration.