Last Updated: June 9th, 2020
! Important Notice !
Aquaculturists transporting or selling aquatic animals are responsible for following current regulations required by each state in which the activity occurs (selling or transporting) and are advised to contact state regulatory agencies responsible for permitting these activities.
State Aquaculture Regulatory Authorities
Ag Wildlife Liaison
Colorado Department of Agriculture
305 Interlocken Parkway
Broomfield, CO 80021
Phone: (303) 869-9000
State Fish Health Authorities / Laboratories
Program Manager and Aquatic Animal Health Lab Pathologist
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
122 East Edison
Brush, CO 80723-0128
Phone: (970) 842-6304
Aquaculture Industry Contacts
Colorado Aquaculture Association
Colorado Department of Agriculture
Colorado Aquaculture Permit Requirements
Information on aquaculture and aquaponics permits can be obtained through the Colorado Department of Agriculture website at: https://www.colorado.gov/aganimals/aquaculture
Colorado Live Fish Importation Summary
In Colorado, live fish importation rules and regulations are promulgated through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife under Chapter W-o of Colorado Wildlife Commission Regulations, articles VII #011 and #014 (Online permit application available) .
Chapter W-o of Colorado Wildlife Commission Regulations can be viewed in its entirety at: Ch00.pdf
Article VII - Aquatic Wildlife
#010 - Transportation of Aquatic Wildlife
A. Transportation of Approved Aquatic Wildlife: Only the aquatic wildlife approved under #012 of this regulation may be transported within the State of Colorado. It shall be unlawful for any person to transport any live aquatic wildlife not approved under #012 of this regulation.
B. Requirements for Transportation:
1. All Aquatic Wildlife: All aquatic wildlife being transported within Colorado must at all times be accompanied by, and may only be transported within Colorado pursuant to:
a. A personal fishing license (including the regulations pertaining to live fish as bait set forth in other provisions of CPW regulations, including #104.H),
b. A commercial fishing license,
c. A donation certificate,
d. A receipt from a commercial or private lake licensee, permitted aquaculture facility or permitted pet animal facility,
e. An aquaculture facility permit,
f. A pet animal facility permit,
g. An importation permit, or
h. A bill of lading or other similar documentation evidencing that the wildlife is being transported through Colorado for delivery in another state and containing the name, address and phone number of both the source and receiving person or facility.
Original documentation is only required when transporting aquatic wildlife pursuant to a personal or commercial fishing license, a donation certificate or any kind of receipt. In all other cases, legible copies of the required documents will suffice.
2. Unless otherwise specified under these regulation or under Title 33, all live fish transported within Colorado must be accompanied by a copy of the fish health certificate for the source facility evidencing its compliance with #014 Aquatic Wildlife Health Management, unless the bill of lading or other similar documentation shows that the shipment is being transported through Colorado for delivery in another state. At the Division’s discretion, the Division may waive the requirement that a fish health certificate accompany live fish transported in Colorado when transportation occurs from one Food Production Facility to another Food Production Facility.
#011 - Importation of Aquatic Wildlife
A. Except as provided in these regulations or authorized by the Division or under Title 33 or Title 35 C.R.S., it shall be unlawful for any person to import any live native or nonnative aquatic wildlife into Colorado.
B. Importation of Approved Aquatic Wildlife: Only the aquatic wildlife approved under #012 of this regulation may be imported. It shall be unlawful for any person to import any aquatic wildlife not approved under #012 of this regulation.
C. Requirements for Importation License:
1. A person must obtain an Importation License from the Division prior to importing any live aquatic wildlife into Colorado.
2. Application for an Importation License shall be made on the form provided by the Division.
3. Properly completed forms and the license fee must be submitted to the Division at least seven (7) working days prior to the proposed importation date.
4. Upon receipt of the Importation License, a person may import only those species and only from the facility listed on the license. Additional species may be added to the license upon written application to the Division at least seven (7) working days prior to the proposed importation date.
D. The Division may inspect any shipment of live fish or viable gametes imported into Colorado prior to release into waters of the state or private holding facilities.
E. Receipt of all wildlife imported must be reported to the Division as specified on the Importation License.
F. All importations of fish must comply with state fish health management regulations. A copy of a facility’s health certification, if applicable, must accompany each shipment of live aquatic wildlife.
G. Release of aquatic wildlife must comply with all applicable regulations including but not limited to the restrictions found in #012, # 013 and 014 of these regulations.
#012 - Possession of Aquatic Wildlife
A. Except as provided in these regulations or authorized by the Division or under Title 33 or Title 35 C.R.S., it shall be unlawful for any person to possess any live native or nonnative aquatic wildlife in Colorado.
B. No person shall, at any time, have in possession or under their control any wildlife caught, taken or killed outside of this state which were caught, taken or killed at a time, in a manner, for a purpose, or in any other respect which is prohibited by the laws of the state, territory or country in which the same were caught, taken or killed; or which were shipped out of said state, territory or country in violation of the laws thereof.
C. The following aquatic wildlife may be possessed by any person in the State of Colorado:
a. Bullfrogs. Possession of this species is subject to the restrictions set forth in Chapter W-1, #104.H.4 and #107.A.1.m of these regulations.
b. Aquatic Gilled forms of Tiger Salamanders. Possession of this species is subject to the restrictions set forth in Chapter W-1, #104.H.4 and #107.A.1.o of these regulations.
c. Any amphibians allowed under Chapter W-10, #1000.A.6 of these regulations.
d. Any amphibian designated as unregulated wildlife under Chapter W-11, #1103.B of these regulations.
a. The following crustaceans may be possessed east of the Continental Divide:
i. Virile Crayfish
ii. Waternymph Crayfish
iii. Calico Crayfish
iv. Ringed Crayfish
v. Southern Plains Crayfish
3. Fish. Possession of these species is subject to the restrictions set forth in Chapter W-1 of these regulations.
a. Brown, brook, cutthroat, golden, lake and rainbow trout, and their hybrids
b. Arctic char
d. Kokanee salmon
g. Smallmouth, largemouth, spotted, striped, and white bass
i. Common Carp
j. Triploid grass carp
k. Bullhead, blue, channel, and flathead catfish
l. Black and white crappie
n. Northern pike
o. Tiger muskie
p. Sacramento and yellow perch, and their hybrids
q. Sauger and saugeye
r. Speckled dace
s. Rainbow smelt.
v. Bluegill and bluegill hybrids
w. Green, redear and pumpkin-seed sunfish
x. Gizzard shad
y. Longnose and white suckers
z. Fathead minnow
aa. Families of fish classified Cyprinidae except for bighead carp, black carp, and silver carp.
bb. Any fish designated as unregulated wildlife under Chapter W-11, #1103.B of these regulations.
D. In addition to those species identified in Chapter W-0, #012.C, any Food Production Facility may possess the following aquatic wildlife in the State of Colorado:
a. Blue tilapia and their hybrids
b. Mozambique tilapia and their hybrids
c. Nile tilapia and their hybrids
e. Any other fish that the Division, after consultation with the Colorado Fish Health Board determines can securely be kept within a Food Production Facility and which does not present a risk to native species, their habitat, the aquatic environment, or other Food Production Facilities.
a. Redclaw crayfish
E. The possession of any aquatic wildlife in the State of Colorado not listed in this section #012 is unlawful unless otherwise authorized by the provisions of Chapter W-11 of these regulations pertaining to unregulated wildlife, or Chapter W-13 of these regulations (“Possession of Wildlife, Scientific Collecting and Special Licenses”). Any person who takes any fish species from the wild in Colorado not listed in this section may take and possess them year round and in any quantity for personal use, provided that the fish are not listed as nongame, threatened, or endangered under Chapter W-10 and provided that the fish are killed prior to transportation from the point of take.
F. No person shall import, transport, possess, or release any aquatic nuisance species (ANS) except as authorized by the Division or permit issued under Title 35 C.R.S.
#013 - Release of Aquatic Wildlife
A. Except as provided herein, it shall be unlawful for any person to release any native or nonnative aquatic wildlife in Colorado.
B. Except as otherwise restricted by these regulations, and provided a person possesses the appropriate stocking permit, letter of authorization or commercial or private lake license, the following species are authorized for release in the drainages indicated:
1. All drainages statewide – rainbow, brook, brown, and cutthroat trout (and their hybrids), fathead minnow and certified triploid grass carp.
2. All drainages east of the continental divide – crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and green sunfish.
3. All drainages east of the continental divide and outside of salmonid habitat - tiger muskie, walleye, gizzard shad, yellow perch, and wipers.
C. Owners or lessees of property may release or otherwise provide for or allow the release of any of the above species of fish into waters of the state (flowing or standing) located on property they own or lease provided they have obtained a stocking permit, or a commercial or private lake license from the Division, or if such activities are performed by a Colorado permitted aquaculture facility or licensed aquatic wildlife importer, unless the person is exempt under Chapter 12, to release such fish. Stocking permits and lake licenses will be approved or denied based on compliance with all other applicable regulations and a determination by the Division that such stocking will not otherwise negatively impact management of the state’s wildlife resources.
D. Licensed aquaculturists may release any species listed in #013.C of these regulations into waters of the state (flowing or standing), upon receipt of an annual letter of authorization from the Division to be sent upon issuance or renewal of the aquaculture license, provided that such release is in accordance with the provisions of regulations #011, #012 , #013 and #014, and provided that aquaculturists submit an annual report on a form provided by the Division, containing information regarding the facility of origin, date, species, size, number and stocking location of all non-salmonid fish, other than certified triplod grass carp and fathead minnow, released into waters west of the Continental Divide by the aquaculturist in the previous calendar year. Provided further, however, that the stocking of the following species is allowed only if the owner or lessee of the property first obtains a stocking permit, or private or commercial lake license, for that purpose from the Division:
1. Non-salmonid species, in the Upper Colorado River Basin, except for fathead minnow and certified triplod grass carp into ponds, lakes or reservoirs outside of critical habitat.
2. Northern pike, or tiger muskies, or prohibited species, anywhere in the state.
3. Salmonid species in the mainstem of the Colorado River below Windy Gap Reservoir downstream to the confluence with the Williams Fork River.
4. Any fish in native cutthroat waters.
The waters identified in Appendix C, including the upstream tributaries and drainages, are designated as stocking restricted cutthroat trout waters. Maps and a copy of Appendix C will be provided to all fish production facilities and with each salmonid importation permit issued by the Division.
E. Except as otherwise provided in these regulations for the Upper Colorado River Basin, certified triploid grass carp may be released into waters of the state in accordance with the following restrictions:
1. All shipments of certified triploid grass carp must be accompanied by a copy of the original certificate of triploidy issued by the U S Fish and Wildlife Service for that lot of fish.
i. Diploid grass carp may be transported through Colorado only when the destination is another state.
2. Certified triploid grass carp may only be released into standing water or irrigation ditches east of the Continental Divide, except in the Rio Grande Basin.
3. West of the Continental Divide and in the Rio Grande Basin:
a. Only certified triploid grass carp may be released into standing waters and must be at least eight inches in length at the time they are released.
b. Such waters must be screened prior to stocking to prevent escape of fish. All screens shall be maintained so as to prevent such escape, and at least one measurement of the gap size shall not exceed one & one-quarter (1 1/4) inch. All such screens may be inspected on an annual basis by the Division or its designated representative.
c. Certified triplod grass carp to be held in aquaculture facilities west of the Continental Divide and in the Rio Grande Basin must be a minimum of 8" in length at the time they are placed in the facility. Any undersized fish that are inadvertently present in a shipment must be removed or handled in a manner to ensure that such fish cannot escape from the facility.
F. Upper Colorado River Basin
1. Except as provided herein, no person shall release any species or subspecies of fish within the Upper Colorado River Basin.
a. Rainbow, brook, brown, and cutthroat trout (and their hybrids) may be released within the Upper Colorado River Basin pursuant to a licensed aquaculturist’s letter of authorization, except in those river reaches defined as critical habitat.
b. Fathead minnow or triploid grass carp may be released into ponds, lakes or reservoirs outside of critical habitat pursuant to a licensed aquaculturist’s letter of authorization as described in #013.D of these regulations.
c. Except as provided in #013.F.1.b of this regulation, stocking of nonnative, nonsalmonid fishes in private waters must be approved by the Division on a case-by-case basis after receipt of a stocking permit application to evaluate potential negative impacts to the state’s wildlife resources. Stocking permit applications must include, at a minimum:
1. Location of the proposed stocking.
2. Species, sizes, numbers, and rationale for selecting the desired species.
3. Specific measures to be implemented to reduce the risk of escapement.
d. Except as provided below, stocking of nonnative, nonsalmonid fish species within critical habitat or in a body of water having direct connection to critical habitat of the Upper Colorado basin is not allowed.
1. The stocking of nonnative, nonsalmonid fish species into private waters is allowed if the water is bermed and the outlet is screened according to the specifications of these regulations prior to stocking. Provided further that stocking of fathead minnows within critical habitat is only allowed if the entire perimeter of the water is bermed according to the specifications of these regulations, with no inlet or outlet of any type. A screen or berm is not required when stocking fathead minnows outside of critical habitat.
2. No screening or berming is required to stock trout.
3. Where berms and/or screens are required, private waters must be screened and bermed according to the following standards, and must be approved by the Division prior to stocking.
aa. When screens are required, at least one measurement of the gap size shall not exceed one-quarter (1/4) inch, except as provided above.
bb. Minimum berm standards are as follows:
i. The berm must be designed and constructed in accordance with recognized and accepted engineering practices.
ii. The berm must be capable of withstanding the hydrodynamic and hydrostatic forces and the effects of buoyancy associated with a 100-year flood.
iii. The berm must be 5.5 vertical feet above the ordinary high water line.
iv. Prior to stocking, the Division may require that all berms be certified in writing as meeting these standards by a licensed engineer. The report shall be submitted to the Division and shall include a consideration of depth and duration of flooding, floodplain elevation, berm geometry, berm and foundation materials, berm compaction, penetrations, and other factors affecting penetrations, localized river channel constrictions and conditions, and any other factors which may affect the ability of the berm to withstand flood events.
4. Except for the annual inspection that may be required by these regulations, stocking of a previously-approved species in a previously-approved water may continue under its initial authorization with no subsequent approval provided all berms and screening continue to prevent escapement of fish. If failure of the berm(s) or screen(s) to prevent escapement occurs, stocking of that water will require Division review and new Division approval prior to additional stocking.
5. Nonnative, nonsalmonid fish species may be released into receiving waters located above existing reservoirs where populations of that species exist and the reservoir is managed according to a management plan approved by the Division, and the management plan allows for the species to be released.
2. Smallmouth bass and northern pike may be released within the Upper Colorado River Basin, except in critical habitat, and then only if:
a. The fish are acquired within the basin from an existing population within critical habitat; and
b. The receiving water already contains the species and is isolated or its outlets are screened to prevent the escape of the fish or their progeny. All such relocations of fish must be authorized in advance and in writing by the Division.
3. All ponds, lakes or reservoirs within the Upper Colorado River Basin which require, or rely upon, berms or screens to prevent the escape of stocked fish and their progeny may be inspected on an annual basis by the Division or its designated representative. All berms and screens shall be maintained to prevent the escape of fish and their progeny.
4. Except as otherwise prohibited by these regulations, isolated private waters having no direct connection to critical habitat and that are above the 100-year floodplain can be stocked under the authority of a licensed aquaculturist’s letter of authorization as described in #013.D of these regulations.
G. Release of aquatic wildlife must comply with all applicable regulations including but not limited to the restrictions in #011, #012, and #014 of these regulations.
#014 - Aquatic Wildlife Health Management
A. Inspection and Certification for Prohibited and Regulated Fish Diseases
1. Annual fish health inspections and certifications are required for all in-state fish production or holding facilities, which sell or stock live fish, and out of state facilities importing live fish into Colorado. A fish health certification will terminate one year from the effective date of certification or upon discovery of a prohibited or regulated disease, whichever occurs first. However, provided the facility requests its annual fish health inspection within 12 months of the effective date of its last certification, its fish health certification shall be valid for fifteen months or whenever its subsequent inspection report is available, whichever occurs first. In the absence of a timely written request for an annual fish health inspection the fish health certification shall terminate 12 months from the effective date of its last certification. A copy of such certification must accompany each fish shipment within or into Colorado.
2. All such facilities shall be annually inspected by a qualified fish pathologist for both prohibited and regulated diseases as applicable.
a. Prohibited diseases
1. All salmonid facilities must be certified to be free of the following diseases:
Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus (IHNV)
Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV)
Oncorhynchus masou Virus (OMV)
2. All non-salmonid fish production or holding facilities, and any non-salmonid fish being exported from or imported to Colorado, must be certified free of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV).
3. Inspection and Certification for Other Diseases of Concern: susceptible or potentially susceptible species from all importing facilities within the applicable endemic disease areas, including both salmonid and nonsalmonid fish production or holding facilities, must also be annually certified by a qualified fish pathologist to be free of the following diseases:
Ceratomyxa shasta (Ceratomyxosis)
Epizootic Epitheliotropic Disease (EEV)
Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAV)
Tetracapsula bryosalmo (Proliferative Kidney Disease – PKD)
Spring Viremia of Carp Virus (SVCV)
b. Regulated diseases – all salmonid facilities must be certified for the presence or absence of the following diseases:
Myxobolus cerebralis (Whirling Disease – WD)
Renibacterium salmoninarum (Bacterial Kidney Disease - BKD)
Aeromonas salmonicida (Furunculosis)
Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis Virus (IPNV)
3. Testing procedures.
a. Except for Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV) and as otherwise provided in these regulations, all inspections and testing procedures must be conducted as set forth in the Blue Book: USFWS and AFS-FHS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Fisheries Society-Fish Health Section) Current edition. Standard procedures for aquatic animal health inspections. In AFS-FHS. FHS Blue Book: Suggested procedures for the detection and identification of certain finfish and shellfish pathogens, 2016 edition. AFS-FHS, Bethesda, Maryland. This document can be viewed and copies obtained at the Division as set forth in the “Incorporated References” section of Chapter 0 of these regulations.
b. Testing for Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV) shall be conducted by the protocols and procedures of:
1 The Blue Book: USFWS and AFS-FHS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Fisheries Society-Fish Health Section) 2014 edition. Standard procedures for aquatic animal health inspections. In AFS-FHS. FHS Blue Book: Suggested procedures for the detection and identification of certain finfish and shellfish pathogens, 2016 edition. AFS-FHS, Bethesda, Maryland, or
2. The Manual of diagnostics for aquatic animals 2014 edition. of the OIE - World Organisation for Animal Health, 12 rue de Prony 75017 Paris, France.
These documents can be viewed and copies obtained at the Division as set forth in the “Incorporated References” section of Chapter 0 of these regulations.
4. Authority to exempt applicants from specific pathogen testing is granted to the Director, upon consultation with, review, and recommendation from the Fish Health Board, when the following criteria are met:
a. Compliance with testing requirements would result in an unacceptable impact on the sample population.
b. There is minimal risk of introducing an exotic pathogen into the state.
c. There is minimal risk of exposing free-flowing waters to any specific pathogen.
d. Adequate provisions for management and disposition of the fish and adequate disinfection of the water as necessary are made and incorporated as conditions of the importation permit.
Application for such an exemption shall be submitted to the Division at least fourteen (14) working days prior to the proposed importation date. The Director shall have fourteen (14) working days to approve or disapprove the application. The Fish Health Board shall review and submit its recommendation to the Director within seven (7) working days after receipt from the Division.
Colorado Prohibited Species
POSSESSION OF AQUATIC WILDLIFE: W-o Article VII #012