Wilson: Relocating fish a serious offense

Question: I ran into a bunch of guys recently who love to bass fish and so have been moving bass into the rivers. They think it's OK, but I think not because bass eat trout and salmon fry. They say the water is too warm during the summer for trout. Is there anything we can do if we know they are taking a bunch of bass to the rivers to dump? Who do I contact if I know where and when it will be done next?

-- Anonymous

Answer: Transporting and relocating live finfish from one body of water to another in California can cause serious environmental problems and is a serious offense punishable by fines and even jail time. If you know of this activity, you should immediately call our CALTIP line (1-888-334-2258) and provide specific details, including suspect and vehicle descriptions, license plate numbers and locations of where the fish are being caught and dropped off.

Enormous problems can occur when live fish are transported from one body of water to another. Aside from the fact that the transported fish might not adapt well to their new surroundings, or even die, the introduced fish can potentially disrupt the balance of existing species through increased predation, competition for the same limited food sources, disease and parasites.

DFG maintains a staff of pathologists and veterinarians to ensure that animals transferred from one location to another are healthy and will not result in disasters like those cited above.

Law enforcement takes these practices quite seriously. Capt. Sherry Howell said that moving live freshwater fish from one body of water and planting them in another are misdemeanors. But they actions carry penalties ranging from fines of up to $5,000 and up to a year in jail, or both.

If the violation involves an aquatic nuisance species (ANS) such as northern pike, the penalties increase significantly. This is also a misdemeanor but is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of not more than $50,000 for each violation, or both. It might also include revocation of all of the defendant's licenses and permits issued pursuant to the Fish and Game Code.

Also, the defendant can be held liable for damages to property and fisheries, and all costs for public and private response, treatment and remediation resulting from a violation involving an ANS.

There could be a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction anyone violating the codes. Report violators to the CALTIP number (888 334-2258) anytime. Callers will remain anonymous.

Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. Send questions to caloutdoors@dfg.ca.gov