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Old 02-08-2007, 10:07 AM   #1
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Ethics...illegal plants...invasive species

Here is my question: Is it ethical to possess an illegal aquatic plant because it is considered an invasive species? Many of us are responsible people who would never mishandle a plant that could be considered dangerous to an ecosystem. We would never take the risk of introducing it into the environment by simply tossing it into a lake or river or even flushing one down the toilet. But the fact of the matter is that many species are illegal in many states.

With that said, is it be wrong to possess an invasive species?

I say this because I was researching aquatic plants and I came across one that I really liked. The species is Hygrophila polysperma. I couldn't find a law in Iowa (where I live) that made it illegal to possess, but I could not find anyone who sales it. Places like Florida have made it illegal to sale this plant across state lines.
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:31 AM   #2
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I think that this depends entirely on the laws where you are at. Sometimes it's legal to keep it and other times it's not. In some places you're allowed to give it away but not sell it. Other places you can neither give nor sell it. Etc, etc, etc...

As long as it's legal for you to keep the plant and you abide by all your states restrictions, I see absolutely no problem with keeping it. However if it's illegal to keep or you're unwilling to abide by the restrictions, then you shouldn't keep the plant.

As best as I can tell this is the current information for Invasive Aquatic Plants in Iowa. It does not appear that Hygrophila polysperma is currently prohibited here. My guess is that most of the shops have ceased carrying it because it is illegal in so many states that the suppliers are finding too much of a hassle to carry. I'd recommend finding someone instate that already has it and get some trimming from them.
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:41 AM   #3
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As a Floridian --

Many animal and plant species are illegal to sell or import here. Most are not illegal to keep. However, in some circumstances, you must obtain a permit to house these species.

I believe it would be similar in other states.
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:46 AM   #4
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Thanks for that website. It doesn't appear to be any restrictions in Iowa for Hygrophila polysperma. All I have to do now is to find someone that will send me some cuttings, either from here in Iowa or from someone whos state doesn't prohibit sending it from across state lines.

As far as the topic goes, I can see why some plants are illegal in some states. Even with the utmost of care, there is still the possibility that part of the plant would live or spread seeds into a suitable environment. I think that Hygro can even live emersed, so that adds to the problem even further.
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:52 AM   #5
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After some further research it turns out that this plant is now on the Federal Noxious Weed List. As far as I understand it, this means that the plant can't be transported without a permit. Probably time to give up on this plant.

Noxious Weed Regulations
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Old 02-08-2007, 11:17 AM   #6
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Darn! I thought that I was in the clear. I was looking in the Iowa Code and found this, "The cultivation and sale of tropical fish species or ornamental aquatic plants or animals, not utilized for human consumption or bait purposes, but maintained in closed systems and utilized by the pet industry or hobbyists are exempt from license requirements." http://www2.legis.state.ia.us/IACODE/1999/481A/141.html

But if it is on the Fed's list, then I suppose that it is illegal.
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Old 02-08-2007, 11:41 AM   #7
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It is certainly not "wrong" to possess an invasive species. It's only wrong when you release that plant into the wild. By the law it may be but not many government agents will track you down for having Hygro.

All people with planted tanks should treat every plant as invasive. Make sure the plants are very, very well dried out or even burned before disposal.
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Old 02-08-2007, 11:59 AM   #8
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harvesting native species is technically against the law in some areas, but to be honest, that doesnt stop me from picking some water mint in a ditch from time to time. as far as invasive plants are concerned, living in NY state is easier because most invasives that would overwinter wouldnt be very attractive in my aquarium!
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Old 02-08-2007, 12:46 PM   #9
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I just found out that one I have is ok to keep but I cannot ship it. If I had known when I bought it I probably would have passed on it. I bought a "grab bag" of plants from a guy here locally which is how I got it in the first place. Also, I am totally new to planted tanks so am pleading ignorance in this case...
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Old 02-08-2007, 12:59 PM   #10
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I use to have some Hygrophila polysperma about 4 or 5 years ago. I loved it. It's a very nice fast growing stem plant, but I was stupid and an apple snail eradicated it, down to one small stem that later died.
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Old 02-08-2007, 01:29 PM   #11
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I just thought of something else. Is it our duty, as aquarium owners, to keep up to date with plants that are on the noxious weed list? I bet there are people out there that may have purchased a plant years ago, but have no idea that it may be illegal to possess now. I purchased a hygro a couple years ago, when it was legal, and now it is illegal. Too bad I killed it.
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Old 02-08-2007, 02:15 PM   #12
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If you are still looking for the hygro I have 3 varieties of it, PM me I'm in Omaha.
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Old 02-08-2007, 03:26 PM   #13
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Unfortunately claiming ignorance to the law won't help you in the least bit if you're caught doing something illegal. You might get lucky and be let off with a slap on your wrists, or you could get caught by someone in a bad mood and have the full extent of the law brought to bear. As a hobbiest you're more likely to get a slap on the wrist than a LFS or plant distributor, but it in no way guarentees that's what would happen. I personally don't think it's worth the risk, I've got better things to spend my money on than fines like these.
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:04 PM   #14
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How many times have you ever heard of anyone being fined for keeping a "weed" in their aquarium?

I'm pretty sure the police have better things to do with their time then DNR coming to your home and finding that you have an invasive freshwater plant in your aquarium and slapping you with a $1,000 to $250,000 fine.
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:24 PM   #15
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You are right. I highly doubt that the Feds would come busting into your house to find a noxious weed in your aquarium. But it does suck to know that it is a possibility to receive a fine that large.

People who get busted are more than likely the local fish stores who sell those kinds of plants.
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:41 PM   #16
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I'm not saying it's likely, just that I don't think it's worth the risk.

A hobbiest would be most likely to get caught when the plant is shipped to them, or when they send it to someone else. All it would take is someone opening a package to inspect it for some reason. They could also get caught at the same time as a store if the store accidently sold them one of the plants on the list.

I know that at least one person in this forum reported that they had gotten a call to ensure that they didn't receive one of these plants from an online store.

I've also read of a situation where soneone got a knock on the door by the state police for suspicion of drugs. He showed them that it was just a planted aquarium, not some sort of drug farm, and everything was fine. Now what would have happened if this same person had had a plant from the noxious weed list in their tank and one of the officers recognized it?

Just some food for thought.
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:59 PM   #17
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Holy crap Purrbox...that just reminded me of something that happened to me about a year ago. Four officers with a dog came to my door late one night asking me if there was a someone (I forgot the person's name) in my house. I told them no, but they asked if they could come in. I didn't have anything to hide, so I let one of the officers in. He just looked into my living room and said, "Nice lights on the fish tank," and laughed. When he was leaving with the other officers, I heard him say, "The lights are just for a fish tank." Then the other officers laughed.

I didn't think about it at the time, but that incident occurred shortly after I purchased a 220w DIY kit. Maybe someone thought I was growing something I shouldn't have...lol.
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:00 PM   #18
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I have had tons of that plant... Got a small piece with a shipment of shrimp and wasn't sure what it was, so I grew it out a bit. It then tried to conquer my aquarium. I have thrown way tons of it, and am down to a small quantity in a small 3-gallon shrimp tank... I think I had heard that it is a noxious weed, but I am unclear on what that means. I never bought it and have never sold it... It is a nice plant, but probably best kept in low-light setups where it won't grow too fast...

Unlike unwanted fish, I have to think that it is extremely rare for a clear thinking hobbiest to drive down to the closest lake or river to "free" their plants instead of throwing them away.
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Old 02-09-2007, 01:59 AM   #19
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As long as your responsible by throwing the plant away when it dies/don't want it, rather than throwing it in some lake, then what's the problem?

If a police officer is in your house in the first place, I think that having an 'illegal' plant planted in your fish tank would be the least of your worries, as well as the cop's. Unless the officer was a friend, and he was just carousing and notices some plant, and then decides to JAIL ya (EDIT: Lol, Not that plant; an invasive aquatic plant! ), you'd be hard pressed to find a police officer that bored.

Of course this is all assuming that you are responsible with an invasive plant. IE: Throwing it in garbage/compost, not lake.
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Old 02-09-2007, 10:31 AM   #20
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I have to say I agree--the odds of a cop looking at your tank enough to even notice an invasive plant...not to mention knowing what was an invasive aquarium plant...I highly doubt it. I have friends who are cops--they definitely have better things to do with their time.

That, of course, completely avoids the question if it's ethical. Personally, I think that if you take great pains to avoid it's ending up in the environment (making sure it's dead/dry before throwing out or burned) there's no ethical issue. There is a difference between a legal question and an ethical one. I'm sure many people could question the ethics of some of our laws...
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