Game wardens have charged a Limestone man with illegally stocking a pond with an exotic South American fish.

Wardens charged Joe LaPierre, 34, with introducing a Pacu, a grey ominvorouos fish the size of a dinner plate and weighing seven pounds, to a private pond above Limestone Stream.

The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department said exotic species can introduce parasites and other diseases for which native species have no defenses. They also can drive out native species.

Wardens charged LaPierre with illegally stocking waters and possessing a restricted species, both class E crimes punishable by fines of at least $1,000 and not more than $10,000, according to a department press release. A Limestone town worker spotted the fish in a culvert that had a screen at one end to keep out beavers.

The department spent $70,000 eradicating largemouth bass at nearby Durepo Lake in 2001, several hundred yards from where the Pacu was captured. The next year, however, someone stocked the pond with smallmouth bass, a non-native species, and that population is now well established.

“The release of illegally imported or exotic fish can cause habitat damage, introduce exotic fish parasites and pathogens to native fish and aquatic wildlife, and non-native fishes can colonize Maine waters, as in the examples of Durepo Lake,” according to Dr. G. Russ Danner, state fish pathologist. “The costs to natural resource agencies are immense, both directly and indirectly.”