Bigheaded Carps: A Biological Synopsis and Environmental Risk Assessment

Chapter 12: Regulations Regarding Bigheaded Carps in the United States


State laws regarding the regulation and prohibition of invasive species are continually in flux; this is also true for the regulation of bighead Hypophthalmichthys nobilis and silver H. molitrix carps. Within a given state, however, regulations for bighead carp parallel those for silver carp in all instances except one (and that was only for 1 year; see discussion on approved commercial species below). Since 2002, a variety of state regulations have been passed regarding bighead and silver carps (Table 12.1). Most of these regulatory changes have been in response to growing concern over the spread of these species to the Great Lakes basin. Although we have attempted to summarize legislation from all states regarding bighead and silver carps through August 2005, we do not presume to have perfect knowledge of the subject. We apologize for any legislation overlooked in this review. For complete and current information regarding regulation of bigheaded carps in any given state, please refer to state legislative and regulatory code (links available at

Before mid-2002, at least 17 states specifically prohibited or regulated (by requiring a permit) the possession of live bighead and silver carps (Figure 12.1). Since mid-2002, eight additional states (five from the Great Lakes basin) have enacted legislation prohibiting or regulating the possession of these species (Figure 12.1). All but three of the same states that regulated possession (Arizona, Arkansas, and Washington) also regulated the importation of bighead and silver carps before mid-2002. Additionally, all states, but Louisiana and Michigan, adding legislation to regulate possession of these species since mid-2002 enacted legislation to regulate their importation. The new Louisiana statute does not specifically list bighead and silver carps in its language; rather it lists “carp” excepting common carp Cyprinus carpio and goldfish Carassius auratus (Table 12.1).

The sale of bighead and silver carps was regulated in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia before mid-2002. Since that time, because of concerns over the sale of bighead carp, especially in live fish markets, statutes have been enacted in Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Pennsylvania prohibiting the sale of bighead and silver carps. In Illinois, it is presently illegal to sell live bighead or silver carps within the City of Chicago. In New York, it is illegal to sell live bighead or silver carps in the state, with an exception for the sale of these fishes in live markets in New York City, provided they are killed before leaving the retail establishment.