From Wynton Yates
When I was a kid, video games were a way of life. Every kid conversation was dominated by the discussion of what games were out and who, in our friend group, had beaten which ever game was most popular at the time. To this day, one of my favorite games is Super Mario.
If you’ve never heard played a Super Mario game or, at your misfortune, never heard of the game, there are some aspects of the game that remind me of our fight against the invasive habits of Asian carp across the country.
There is a recurring enemy throughout the Super World called Cheep Cheeps. These characters are red fish with white fins and sport yellow mohawks. They travel in large schools and can pose a significant threat. If you come across them during your virtual adventures, you have two options; A) avoid them and swim away or B) jump on their heads to end their pixelated lives. What you’ll come to find is that these Cheep Cheeps are ever present, never really dwindling in numbers. To me, Cheep Cheeps were created in the image of Asian Carp.
Asian Carp, also known as Silver Fin, was imported into the United States back in the 70’s. While Wild Cherry and Led Zeppelin were topping the music charts, Asian carp was waiting for its big break to hit the scene. That break out hit came in the form of a flood, which released Asian Carp into the wild, allowing the fish spread across the country. Now that I think about it, maybe that's how Cheep Cheeps took over the waters of Super Mario’s world.
Since then cities across the country have put a lot of effort and millions of dollars, more than $500 million, into thwarting the invasive efforts of the fish. However, these efforts have yet to impede the continued spread of this finned wildfire.
Asian carp continue to procreate and spread. Because they can grow up to 110 lbs and consume 20% - 40% of their body weight in plankton (daily), they are causing significant damage to local ecosystems, both biological and financial.
In an effort to halt the spread of the invasive we’ve made the plea for the masses to begin incorporating Asian Carp into their diets. We’re continuing that plea, and now looking to fishermen to help bring more of the fish to the proverbial table. We may even expand into educating folks on the plague that is the mohawked Cheep Cheep. In both cases, whether it be the very real Asian Carp or the virtual Cheep Cheep. The answer to the defeat of both Asian Carp and its pixelated twin is fishing it out of the water.
Getting fishermen in the game to fight back against the finned foe, Asian carp, is crucial. Both recreational and commercial fishermen can help put a dent in the invasive fishes population. But, it has come to our attention that some fishermen are running into issues when it comes to the sell of the fish.
In Louisiana, La. R.S. § 56:327 explains that the sell, exchange, offer to sale, and possession of any game fish with the intent to sell or exchange.
“It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to offer to sell or to sell any shrimp, oyster, fish, or other seafood without having first obtained a valid commercial fishing, retail, or wholesale license as otherwise provided in this Subpart, or without having first obtained certification from the department that such seafood has been raised and taken in accordance with a certified aquaculture program or a valid experimental mariculture permit issued pursuant to R.S. 56:579.1.” La. R.S. § 56:327.
The statute goes on to explain that this prohibition applies to restaurants and other retailers from purchasing any shrimp, oyster, fish, or other seafood from a proprietor who does not possess the requisite licensing. “Such license or certification or a copy thereof shall be in the possession of the seller and conspicuously displayed at all times when transacting any sale.”La. R.S. § 56:327.
Now, to bring it back from planet legal, if you head over to the Louisiana Wildlife and fisheries website, it states that it’s strictly prohibited to sell or transport Asian Carp into Louisiana. But, that seems to create another question. What if I catch the fish in the state?
This question prompted me to pick up the phone and actually call the enforcement division of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries. I asked the question, what if I catch the fish in the state, and was promptly shuffled through to several different people. Each person had the same reaction. First, a slight moment of silence, enough that I could hear the gears of their mind turning at high speeds. Once they came to the realization that the wording of the post on their website was legitimately confusing, I’d be transferred to someone they believed may have the answer I was searching for. After several transfers, I ended up on the phone with an actual Wildlife and Fisheries officer who informed me that, you are allowed to catch and sell Asian Carp within the state of Louisiana.
To do so will require some steps on your part.
In order to fish for commercial purposes in the Pelican State, you’ll need to have at least one license, and in some cases, multiple.
First, if you are operating a commercial fishing vessel, you will need to have a commercial fishing license. There are senior discounts if you’re 70 or older. If you're fishing in the saltwater areas of the state, you’ll need an additional vessel license.
If you’re using commercial grade fishing gear, you’ll need a license for that as well. You’re going to get a commercial gear license.
Once you’ve got your catch on the boat, what's next? Do you plan on selling your catch? What if the person you’re selling to, other than consumers, doesn't have a wholesale/retail seafood dealer license? In this case, you’ll need to get a wholesale/retail seafood dealer license yourself. If you are selling directly to consumers, you’re going to need to acquire a fresh produce license.
A lot, I know, but it will allow you to catch and sell your fish without any unwanted problems.
When it comes to Asian Carp, there is no size or harvest limit. Additionally, there is no specific season designated for fishing our invasive friend. The only stipulation put forth by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries is, the Carp can only be possessed and sold dead.
The wildlife and fisheries website also has downloadable brochures that list the prices for each of these fees http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/regulations .
Think of it this way, you can find video game books with cheat codes to help you defeat the final boss. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries brochures contain your cheat codes to successfully defeat the infamous Cheep Cheep, wait, I mean Asian Carp.