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Heavy Fines for Trucking Company Caught with Asian Carp

by Jana Ritter - Published: 1/20/2014

Congress is already debating on a $18.4 billion plan to re-channel Chicago-area waterways just to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan and a Canadian court just fined a trucking company and one of its drivers $75,000 for attempting to smuggle tons of Asian carp across the border.

Police fish

 Alltheway Trucking Inc. of Edmonton, Alberta, and trucker Yong-Sheng Zhang, of Markham, Ont., were not only caught on Jan. 25, 2012, but a second time only a month later on Feb. 28, 2012. After crossing the Ambassador Bridge via Detroit and passing into Windsor Ontario authorities seized nearly 6,614 pounds — more than 3 tons — of grass and bighead carp from Zhang’s truck. Then a month later, they caught him again with almost twice as much- nearly 14,000 pounds, or 7 tons of bighead carp. The bigger problem was that in both cases, there was a combination of live and dead fish. Ontario accepts imported Asian carp – but only if the fish are dead.

Canadian customs officials called in Kevin Sprague, with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, to take a closer look. “When you look at them on the truck, they’re not flopping around, jumping out of the truck,” Sprague said. “They’re very cold, so they move a lot slower. You really have to look at them.” But Sprague explained that a “substantial number” of the fish, including two species of Asian carp, came right back to life after being dropped in water. Sprague said he’s not exactly why sure why anyone would want to haul live Asian carp, possibly “fresher” fish allowing them to charge more, since there is a market for Asian carp as food. “Or, people may just be a little bit lazy about ensuring that they’re dead,” Sprague added.

Either way, the Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces have strengthened laws on the transport and sale of live Asian carp as concerns grow over the carp reaching and spreading throughout the Great Lakes. Many experts fear the invasive carp could compromise native fish populations, causing major environmental damage and putting the Lakes’ lucrative sport and commercial fisheries at risk

The fines were issued Thursday after the Ontario Court of Justice found the defendants guilty of possessing live invasive fish. The company, which owns eight trucks and employs 18 people, was fined $30,000 for the first offense and $40,000 for the second. Mr. Zhang the driver was fined $2,000 and $3,000 for the two offenses.  The judge ordered the fines to be paid in 12 months.

Kevin Sprague further explains that the fish were believed to have been trucked from an illegal supplier in Arkansas for fish markets in the Greater Toronto area. It is not illegal for fish markets to possess or sell dead carp, but it is illegal to transport them.