Man charged with illegally importing, releasing fish in peninsula lake

The man allegedly shipped 144 rainbow trout to Alaska that were released into a closed lake.

File

File

An Anchorage man has been charged with illegally importing live fish and releasing them into a lake on the Kenai Peninsula, following an investigation by the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

Troopers have been investigating Ace Clark, 33, of Anchorage, since October of 2019, when he was first suspected of importing live rainbow trout from a fish distributor in Oregon, according to a May 22 dispatch from the Alaska State Troopers.

In June of 2019, Clark allegedly shipped 144 rainbow trout to Alaska that were later to released into a closed lake on the peninsula. Megan Peters, communications director for the Department of Public Safety, said that the lake is unnamed and is located about 7 miles south of Soldotna, near Kasilof.

Importing and releasing live fish into Alaska waters without a permit is illegal. Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game explained in an email and phone calls to the Clarion why this practice is heavily monitored and enforced in the state.

“Illegal introductions of fish or other organisms can have many unintended consequences, especially if the introduction results in a new invasive species population in an area,” Tammy Davis and Kristine Dunker said in an email on Wednesday. Dunker is an invasive species research biologist with the Division of Sport Fish, and Davis the head of the state’s Invasive Species Program.

Rainbow trout are native to the Kenai Peninsula. ADF&G stocks rainbow trout in many peninsula waters for recreational purposes, however, even the introduction of native species can have harmful effects on the ecosystem.

Davis and Dunker said that rainbow trout stocked by their department are monitored in the hatcheries to make sure they do not carry pathogens, and careful consideration is taken to avoid any potential for the fish to escape into other waters. In addition, the fish introduced by ADF&G are unable to reproduce, preventing a new population from spreading in the area.

“With all introductions, there is risk of parasites and pathogens spreading to native fish from the introduced species and the water that is dumped with them,” Dunker said. “There could be small invertebrates, aquatic plants or other things in that aquarium water that could be just as problematic as the fish. Illegal introductions of fish and other organisms has led to significant invasive species issues worldwide, and many of these problems are irreversible. For these reasons, the state responds to these events as quickly as possible to try and prevent the introduced species from establishing here.”

Dunker said that biologists based in Soldotna will be investigating the area to determine what actions should be taken in eradicating the trout. Dunker said that ADF&G has used a pesticide called rotenone to eradicate invasive species, citing an instance last year involving goldfish in Cuddy Pond in Anchorage and another instance involving muskies on the Kenai Peninsula.

Clark is charged with one count of importing live fish into state waters, a class A misdemeanor. He is scheduled to be arraigned at the Kenai Courthouse on May 28.

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