Trucking company and driver fined for transporting live Asian carp

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A trucking company and driver have been fined a total of $75,000 for transporting live Asian carp across the U.S.-Canadian border.

An Ontario judge ruled this past week that Alltheway Trucking Inc., of Edmonton, Alberta, and driver Yong-Sheng Zhang, of Markham, Ontario, violated laws governing the transport of live Asian carp species on not one, but two separate occasions in early 2012.

Photos courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

A truck owned by Alltheway Trucking Inc. of Edmonton, Alberta, clearly marked as hauling live fish

Alltheway Trucking was ordered to pay $30,000 for its first offense in January 2012, and $40,000 for a second incident that occurred a month later. Zhang, who was the truck driver on both occasions, was ordered to pay $2,000 and $3,000 for the respective incidents. Ontario Justice of the Peace Maureen Ryan-Brode issued the court decision on Thursday, Jan. 16.

The mere mention of Asian carp to anyone near the Great Lakes or any other public waterway can send people into a panic. Governments on both sides of the border are spending millions to stave off what could be a catastrophic problem should the invasive species establish a population.

Conservation officer Kevin Sprague of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources says it’s not illegal to transport the fish from farms to market as long as the fish are dead.

Photos courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Species of Asian carp seized at the border

“The fish were declared and they weren’t being smuggled. The issue is that some of them were live,” Sprague told Land Line. “It’s legal to bring them into Ontario if they are dead. There’s a market for these fish, mainly in and around Toronto.”

Sprague, who was called in by the Canada Border Services Agency to view the contents and determine charges, said the fish originated at a northeast Arkansas fish farm. Farming the fish in ponds or hatcheries is perfectly legal. Farming Asian carp species in Arkansas, such as the grass carp and bigheads, dates back to the 1970s.

During both incidents that Sprague investigated, the truck loads were clearly marked as “live fish” when they arrived at the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario. The trucker, Zhang, possessed the proper paperwork for the loads and there was no attempt at concealing the fact that live Asian carp were on board. The paperwork showed other fish on board as well.

“We don’t know how many of them were live,” Sprague said. “We did not inspect every single fish, but we did find live grass carp during the first incident. In the second incident, we found live bigheads. I charged him on the spot. I even showed him a live fish and he understood.”

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources confiscated the loads.

Alltheway Trucking is listed as owning eight trucks and has 18 employees. Sprague said Zhang was no longer working as a truck driver.

Asian carp have already invaded the Mississippi River and other major waterways. Federal and state governments are working to stop the spread of the invasive species.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates it could take between $15 billion and $18 billion to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. The Corps held its first of two public meetings in Michigan on Tuesday, Jan. 21, to discuss strategies for dealing with the menace.

Illinois has scheduled its first “Flying Fish Festival” for later this year, aimed at collecting and killing as many Asian carp as possible. The carp are called flying fish because they hurl themselves out of the water. Some can weigh up to 100 pounds.

“The fear is if they do get here and establish a population, they’re going to decimate the native fish populations that live in these areas – like yellow perch and walleye, for example,” Sprague said of the Great Lakes region.

“They don’t eat the other fish, they eat the food of the other fish,” he said. “There’s lots of native species that are important in the water, so they would have an effect on any native fish populations. Small fish eat small particles in the water – plankton – and bigger fish eat the little fish, on up the food chain.”

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