HARPSWELL, Maine — Georgette Curran said she has a good feeling that a judge will allow her to keep Lemon, Spotty and the dozens of other pet koi that she says lower her blood pressure and mean the world to her.
Curran, of Cundy’s Harbor, represented herself Wednesday in Kennebec County Superior Court in her appeal of 11 restrictions on a permit issued by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Among the restrictions, Curran must provide the department with a full written description of the Nishiki Koi, have a necropsy performed on any koi that die, notify the department if the fish breed and destroy the new fish if the koi do reproduce.
In the winter, Curran keeps her fish in a 900-gallon tank in her basement. In the summer, she moves them to a 6,000-gallon outdoor pond. Lined with plastic, with a filter to keep it clean, and isolated from any waterways, Curran said there’s no way the fish could end up in Maine’s rivers. But her permit requires that the fish be kept inside.
Curran said she argued in court on Wednesday that Maine is the only state in the country that doesn’t allow koi to be kept as pets, and that if the koi were accidentally released into Maine waters, they wouldn’t survive anyway.
“They’re an aquarium trade fish — that’s all,” she said.
But koi, which is a subspecies of carp, is classified by the department as an invasive fish that if released into a pond, lake or river, has the potential to take over and eliminate native fish species, Andrea Erskine, DIF&W deputy commissioner, told the Bangor Daily News last year.
“There’s just a lot of concern about the risk of the fish escaping, of someone picking some up from [Curran’s] pond,” said Erskine. “We don’t want them to spread.”
Curran said Thursday that during an inspection earlier this week, DIF&W officials discovered that her fish did in fact breed.
“Yes, my fish did breed,” she said. “I found 11 babies in my filter and I was supposed to call them, but if I called them, they’d come and destroy them, so I didn’t call them.”
Curran said she was twice denied a permit to keep the koi before receiving a “stay” pending a court decision. But she said Assistant General Attorney Mark Randlett told her on Wednesday that her permit is conditional, and now she worries that if she loses the appeal, she’ll lose her koi.
Still, she said she is hopeful that she made her case successfully.
“I do have a good feeling about the outcome,” Curran said. “All I can do is hope. I really don’t know what I will do if they are not allowed. I thought of moving to New Hampshire, but I am so rooted in Maine. And things that are not right can’t be corrected by running away.”
Curran said she was told the judge would make a decision in two weeks. Until then, she said, “I’m on pins and needles. If he denies this, I don’t know if they can swoop down and take my fish. I just want to enjoy my fish and my animals and my retirement and leave me alone.”