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Legal requirements on pest fish

An image of

Carp (Cyprinus carpio). Photo courtesy of Gunther Schmida.                        

Queensland has the highest diversity of freshwater fish in Australia. Unfortunately this diversity is threatened by the presence of pest fish (sometimes referred to as 'non-indigenous'), which have successfully established in some of our waterways. Some pest fish pose such a threat to Queensland waters that  they have been listed as 'noxious' in Queensland legislation.

Impacts of pest fish

The introduction of pest fish species into Queensland's natural waterways may reduce local native fish numbers. Pest fish affect native fish through:

  • direct competition for food and space                      
  • predation                      
  • habitat alteration                      
  • and the introduction of exotic diseases and parasites.  

Pest fish are fish species that are not native to an area and have potential negative social, economic or environmental impacts. Ornamental fish become pest fish when released into the wild. Most pest fish established in Queensland waters have been released by irresponsible members of the public.  

Noxious fish

A noxious fish is a pest fish that has been declared as harmful by Queensland law because they are, or may become, a serious pest to native aquatic communities and require specific actions and restrictions to manage them. Noxious fish have characteristics that are detrimental to other fish, aquatic habitats or humans. 

Legal requirements

Prohibited noxious fish

The Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act) identifies 125 species as prohibited noxious fish (refer to Schedule 1, noxious fish). These species are not in Queensland nor are they able to be brought into Queensland. If sighted they must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours of the sighting.

Restricted noxious fish

The Act identifies 10 species as restricted noxious fish (refer to Schedule 2, noxious fish).

These are:

  • alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula)    
  • black pacu (Piaractus brachypomus)    
  • carp (Cyprinus carpio)    
  • Chinese weatherfish, weatherloach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus)    
  • climbing perch (Anabas testudineus)    
  • gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki)    
  • giant cichlid, yellow belly cichlid (Boulengerochromis microlepis)    
  • marbled lungfish (Protopterus aethiopicus)    
  • spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus)    
  • tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus and Tilapia mariae)    

If sighted, alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula), black pacu (Piaractus brachypomus), giant cichlid (Boulengerochromis microlepis), marbled lungfish (Protopterus aethiopicus) and spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours of the sighting.  They must not be moved given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit. Everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risk of these restricted noxious fish from escaping until they receive  advice from an authorised officer.

Carp (Cyprinus carpio), Chinese weatherfish (weatherloach) (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus), climbing perch (Anabas testudineus), gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki) and tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus and Tilapia mariae) are restricted noxious fish. They must not be  kept, fed, given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit. If caught these species must be immediately humanely killed and disposed of responsibly away from the water body and must not be used for bait. By law, everyone has a GBO to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with restricted noxious fish under their control.

Banned as bait

You cannot use noxious fish as bait. These fish must not be returned to the water dead or alive. To achieve your GBO, best practice would be to avoid using any pest fish as bait.

Non-native invasive ornamental fish

In order for people to discharge their GBO in relation to non-native invasive ornamental fish they must not possess or bring any of the species listed below into Queensland. If a person believes they have any of these species, they should immediately contact the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to  make suitable arrangements on how to deal with the matter-

  • Snail bullhead (Ameiurus brunneus)                  
  • White catfish (Ameiurus catus)                      
  • Black bullhead (Ameiurus melas)                      
  • Yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis)    
  • Brown bullhead  (Ameiurus nebulosus)                  
  • Flat bullhead (Ameiurus platycephalus)              
  • Spotted bullhead (Ameiurus serracanthus)              
  • Gangetic climbing perch (Anabas cobojius)                    
  • Banded tetra (Astyanax aeneus)                    
  • Banded astyanax (Astyanax fasciatus)                  
  • Silverbelly ctenopoma (Ctenopoma argentoventer)            
  • Tailspot ctenopoma (Ctenopoma kingsleyae)                
  • Manyspined ctenopoma (Ctenopoma multispine)                
  • Ocellated labyrinth fish (Ctenopoma muriei)                    
  • Twospot climbing perch (Ctenopoma nigropannosum)            
  • Eyespot ctenopoma (Ctenopoma ocellatum)                
  • Mottled ctenopoma (Ctenopoma weeksii)                  
  • Dormitator lebretonis
  • Large scaled spiny cheek sleeper (Eleotris amblyopsis)                
  • Sandwich island sleeper (Eleotris sandwicensis)              
  • Helicophagus leptorhynchus
  • Helicophagus waandersii
  • Himantura kittipongi
  • Marbled freshwater whip ray (Himantura krempfi)                  
  • Marbled whip ray (Himantura oxyrhyncha)                
  • Balsas catfish (Ictalurus balsanus)                  
  • Lerma catfish (Ictalurus dugesii)
  • Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)                  
  • Headwater catfish (Ictalurus lupus)                    
  • Rio verde catfish (Ictalurus mexicanus)                
  • Chapala catfish (Ictalurus ochoterenai)              
  • Yaqui catfish (Ictalurus pricei)
  • Ozark madtom (Noturus albater)                    
  • Smoky madtom (Noturus baileyi)                    
  • Chucky madtom (Noturus crypticus)                  
  • Elegant madtom (Noturus elegans)                    
  • Mountain madtom (Noturus eleutherus)                  
  • Slender madtom (Noturus exilis)                      
  • Saddled madtom (Noturus fasciatus)
  • Checkered madtom (Noturus flavater)                    
  • Yellowfin madtom (Noturus flavipinnis)                
  • Stonecat (Noturus flavus)                      
  • Black madtom (Noturus funebris)                    
  • Carolina madtom (Noturus furiosus)                    
  • Orangefin madtom (Noturus gilberti)                    
  • Noturus gladiator
  • Tadpole madtom (Noturus gyrinus)                    
  • Hildebrandi least madtom (Noturus hildebrandi)    
  • Lautus (Noturus hildebrandi)    
  • Margined madtom (Noturus insignis)                    
  • Ouachita madtom (Noturus lachneri)                  
  • Speckled madtom (Noturus leptacanthus)                
  • Black river madtom (Noturus maydeni)
  • Brindled madtom (Noturus miurus)    
  • Frecklebelly madtom (Noturus munitus)                    
  • Freckled madtom (Noturus nocturnus)                  
  • Brown madtom (Noturus phaeus)
  • Neosho madtom (Noturus placidus)                    
  • Pygmy madtom (Noturus stanauli)                  
  • Northern madtom (Noturus stigmosus)    
  • Caddo madtom (Noturus taylori)
  • Scioto madtom (Noturus trautmani)    
  • Fathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)    
  • Roach (Rutilus rutilus)    
  • Tench (Tinca tinca)    

When dealing with pest fish that are not prohibited, restricted noxious or non-native invasive ornamental you should take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the biosecurity risks that they pose.

Invasive Plants and Animals Committee

The Invasive Plants and Animals Committee (IPAC) is a cross-jurisdictional sectoral sub-committee of the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC). The committee is responsible for implementing the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB) and providing policy and technical advice to  the  NBC on national weed, vertebrate pest and freshwater invertebrate pest issues.

IPAC are developing policies and risk assessments around fresh water fish. For the latest information on the exotic fish trade visit the Federal Department of the Environment website.

How you can help

To help stop the spread of pest fish:  

To report illegal activities in relation to pest fish in Queensland, contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

To report illegal fishing activities in Queensland, phone the Fishwatch Hotline on 1800 017 116.

Further information