Invasive Species Laws: New York State Passes New Regulations

Published on April 2, 2015

Shubunkin fish.
Shubunkin fish. Photo courtesy of Larry Nau (Click to expand image).

Author’s Note: Both Koi and Goldfish should be on the prohibited list koi scored like a 92 and goldfish a 83. However, thanks to the efforts of PIJAC they helped to make the argument how important goldfish and koi are to the hobby and just so common they are in your lives. NYS DEC lowered their ranking to restricted as a result

New York State has implemented new Prohibited and Regulated Invasive Species regulations, NYCRR Part 575, on March 10, 2015. Implementation and enforcement of these regulations are the jurisdiction of New York State Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The entire code includes plants, fish, birds, small animals and reptiles. Additional sections cover invertebrates, fungi, algae and even cyanobacteria! Currently there are over 160 species listed on these regulations. The concern is this is an open ended list, which may be expanded each year as additional species are evaluated. As water gardeners and koi enthusiasts, these regulations regulate or prohibit some of our most popular additions to our ponds.

What is an invasive species? According to the NYS DEC77, “an invasive species means a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”

The Invasive Species Regulations are actually 2 lists; a regulated list and a prohibited list. The lists were derived via a total score from the “Invasiveness Ranking Form”. This form scores the species in question on factors such as: know and potential distribution in NYS, ecological impacts, dispersal ability, difficulty of control and about 5 other criteria. The total numerical score ranks this way:

Click to expand chart.
Click to expand chart.


New York State defines Prohibited and Regulated Species as:

Prohibited: Prohibited invasive species cannot be knowingly possessed with the intent to sell, import, purchase, transport or introduce. In addition, no person shall sell, import, purchase, transport, introduce or propagate prohibited invasive species. Note: at this time the DEC is requiring the removal of a prohibited species from a landowner’s property.

Regulated: Regulated invasive species are species which cannot be knowingly introduced into a free-living state, or introduced by a means that one should have known would lead to such an introduction, although such species shall be legal to possess, sell, buy, propagate and transport. (Free-living state: a species is considered in a free-living state if it is introduced to public lands or lands connected to public lands, natural areas, and public waters or waters connected to public waters.)

NY Invasives ListNy invasives list

[box]Click to expand the charts above. [/box]

Regulated Fish that are sold in NYS must be labeled “Invasive Species—Harmful to the Environment”: and offer alternative non-invasive species and provide instructions for the care or tending of the invasive species to prevent their spread in the State or introduction into a free-living state. Any person who purchases a regulated invasive species shall be required to follow any instructions required by the regulations and maintain the required instructions until the regulated invasive species is disposed of in a manner that renders it non-living or non-viable.

Click to expand chart.
Click to expand chart.

Working together the NYS DEC, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), Pet World of Rochester and Bergen Water Gardens we have agreed on the following label which must be applied to each goldfish and koi sold in New York State. In addition, fish farms, wholesalers, internet sellers, anyone who ships goldfish and koi into New York State must have this label on the bag/box!

The labels are designed to be printed on Avery #8160 Address Labels (1″ x 2 5/8″) The Avery label file for Goldfish and Koi labels may be found on the PIJAC website,

Landscapers and pond installers “before supplying or planting a regulated invasive species as part of a landscape service in the State, a person shall give written notice to the customer that the invasive species is harmful to the environment. Such notice shall include the common and scientific names of the invasive species immediately followed by the words “Invasive species-Harmful to the Environment” in no less than 14 point bold type. The notice shall offer alternative non-invasive species and shall provide instructions for the care or tending of the invasive species to prevent their spread in the State or the introduction into a free-living state.”

Enforcement will be primarily done by the NYS DEC. The exact penalties for non- compliance have yet to be disclosed but they will be primarily fines for each infraction. This is certainly a huge task for the DEC as PIJAC estimates there are over 1,000 pet stores selling goldfish and koi in NYS. In addition, there are numerous nurseries, pond specialty stores and plus the many carnivals which have the famous ‘Ping Pong Ball Toss’ to win a goldfish. Add on all the goldfish and koi shipped into the State by fish farms, wholesalers and the ever expanding internet market and this is the ultimate challenge. However, if the industry and hobby does not co-operate with these regulations goldfish and koi could easily be moved back to prohibited status.

Koi regulations.
Koi regulations.

The State has yet to provide instructions about a “regulated invasive species will be disposed of in a manner that renders it non-living or non-viable.” Certainly for a plant this is simple to do but attention must also be paid to seeds as well. When a 30 inch koi can not be rehomed and must be rendered non-living, it becomes a much more difficult challenge. There are guidelines provided by the American Veterinary Association for fish euthanasia protocols at pet wholesalers and retailers. Clearly the methods outlined here will be most effective but suggesting these to the general public will certainly create a very negative atmosphere. As the 2015 pond season opens, we are anxiously awaiting the state’s response on the best way to render a unwanted pond fish “non-living”.

For the past 15 years we have educated our customers about the potential risks and dangers of invasive species. Plants and pond fish, in properly designed and maintained pond, should pose no threat to New York’s environment. Certainly we do not want to contribute to the State’s problem of invasive species and costs of controlling and removing invasives. Responsible retailers and pond enthusiasts want to protect our environment from unnecessary risks but we also know and treasure the value of our ponds! Together we must all work to protect our environment and preserve our wonderful hobbies of water gardening and koi keeping.

>> New York Regulations: Click here for more information 

Toledo Goldfish

1 thought on “Invasive Species Laws: New York State Passes New Regulations”

  1. We’ve seen a few people fail to take this topic seriously. They may need to realize we have been paid as expert witnesses in court where a pond owner has damaged habitat on neighboring property. If you fail to take this seriously, perhaps we will meet…… in court.

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