A Harpswell woman has lost her plea to be allowed to keep koi.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied Georgette Curran’s appeal of a ruling in June in Kennebec County Superior Court. Curran wanted the high court to allow her to keep her koi – fish that are used in ornamental ponds and aquariums but are considered an invasive species in Maine – without restrictions.

Ultimately, she wants koi legalized as an aquarium trade fish. More immediately, she wanted to give hers a chance to be in a less crowded, less stressful environment.

Maine game wardens found koi at Curran’s home after getting an anonymous complaint via Operation Game Thief. Curran was denied a permit to keep them in April 2012, but got a restricted permit in July 2012 while the court appeal was pending.

In her permit application, Curran said she has owned fish for 55 years, and kept koi for about the past seven years. “They are a totally unique fish, charming, endearing, calming, alluring, addictive personalities. They are my Prozac.”

Curran’s temporary permit from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife allowed her to keep as many as 40 koi in an indoor aquarium while her court case was pending. She was hoping to ease the restrictions so she could move them to an outdoor pond in warmer weather.


In June, Justice Donald Marden upheld a departmental ruling. “Even though the Legislature has found koi to be a nuisance invasive species, the department has still allowed Ms. Curran to possess the fish,” Marden wrote. “Ms. Curran appears to be using this petition as a platform to have the possession of koi legalized in Maine.”

Marden also wrote that Maine lists koi among “the most harmful group of fish species” on the Invasive Species Action Plan of 2002 and regards koi as posing “an unreasonable risk to Maine native fish and their environment.”

The Supreme Court’s decision, which came Tuesday in the form of a memorandum, says, “Contrary to Curran’s contentions, evidence in the administrative record supports the department’s factual findings, and the department did not abuse its discretion in denying Curran a permit.”

She said she was disappointed by the ruling, which arrived by letter at her home on Wednesday. “I just don’t understand that they don’t understand that you can’t lump a subspecies and a species together any more than you can lump a dog and a wolf together,” she said.

She also said she is preparing to seek a new permit to keep her brightly colored fish. The state supreme court noted that her current permit has expired.

“They’re not taking my fish,” said Curran, 66, who represented herself in the case. “I’m too old to be having this hassle for a worldwide non-issue. It makes absolutely no sense to be spending money on this issue when it’s something that could be turned around to create jobs and revenue. Why don’t they turn this into a positive thing?”


By allowing koi as an aquarium trade fish, she said, the state could reap revenue from registering ponds and from trade shows.

She argued in person and in writing that koi are accepted just about everywhere as an aquarium trade fish, including the 49 other states. The court order did not specify what Curran is supposed to do with the fish, or give her a deadline for removing them from her property.

It was unclear whether state wildlife officials would attempt to have them removed. Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service said Wednesday that the case remains an active investigation so the department is not releasing any information about it.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:


Twitter: @betadams

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.