Wildlife authorities in Utah are reminding the public that certain fish shouldn’t be let loose in bodies of water in the state.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) confirmed to Fox News Digital that the agency issued a “don’t ditch a fish” announcement last week.
Four species of sportfish have been illegally introduced in public waters throughout the state in 2023, so far, according to the biologists with the UDWR.
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Biologists have found green sunfish at the Yearns Reservoir in Sanpete County, smallmouth bass at the Settlement Canyon Reservoir in Tooele County, redside shiners at the Paragonah Reservoir in Iron County and largemouth bass at the Newcastle Reservoir in Iron County.
“Illegal fish introductions seldom improve fisheries — instead, illegal introductions typically ruin fisheries and threaten the species that live there,” Randy Oplinger, sportfish coordinator with the UDWR, said in a statement.
“It is also illegal in Utah and can result in a class A misdemeanor,” he continued.
Illegal fish introduction – be it sportfish or pet fish – are harmful to aquatic ecosystems, according to the UDWR.
Moving fish from ponds, streams or lakes to another body of water can have adverse effects of native fish.
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Illegally transplanted fish can prey on and outcompete other sportfish, non-recreational fish and endangered fish species, according to the UDWR.
Disease can also be introduced and water quality can be negatively impacted through illegal fish introduction, the agency warned.
The UDWR is urging Utah anglers to not transplant fish from one waterbody to another because it does seem to improve fisheries.
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“It is very expensive and takes a very long time — often requiring rotenone treatments that kill all the fish — to restore these waterbodies after fish have been illegally introduced,” Oplinger said in a statement.
“Please help our native fish species and maintain quality fishing in Utah by never dumping a fish or being a ‘bucket biologist,’” he asked in the UDWR’s news release.
Utah residents who witness an illegal fish introduction or spot an invasive fish species can report their sightings to the UDWR at 1-800-662-3337.
Unwanted sportfish and pet fish can be surrendered to a UDWR office.
The UDWR has outlined further legal and environmental consequences of fish transplanting on its “Don’t Ditch a Fish” web page at wildlife.utah.gov.
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