by Tim Huffman
Asian carp numbers are rapidly growing and their range is expanding. The jumping make them a danger to people on the water and their numbers are putting desirable gamefish in danger.
There are three major ways to reduce the negative impact created by Asian carp. Carp are currently being removed from the waters at Kentucky and Barkley, along with smaller projects in other waters. Removing the carp is something that can be done immediately to make an impact.
The second is building barriers. Locks at dams can have a series of stops to discourage carp from going through. Bubble and sound barriers, using frequencies the fish don’t like to discourage them from passing. The barriers are incredibly expensive, running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The third is to introduce a virus that only targets the carp. Some waters may be scheduled but more testing is needed, along with approvals, to do a large-scale program. There are risks involved and unexpected problems could occur.
Middle and Southern States. The carp are making a big impact in several waters including in Kentucky Lake, known for great fishing and summer recreation. Resorts have seen many cancellations due to the dangers of boating, skiing and fishing in waters with the jumping fish. The quality of fishing has taken a major downswing, too. The Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and associated waters, all have major carp problems.
The Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are all seeing the impact. So are any waters that connect to them. Floods are a major factor in spreading the carp.
Northern states have fewer fish but the migration has been steadily progressing. A major fear is the fish spreading into the Great Lakes. Officials believe the Asian carp could negatively impact the $7 billion-a-year fishing industry in the Great Lakes.
“Asian carp pose an imminent threat to the Great Lakes and we need to do everything we can to stop this invasive species from coming into some of our state’s most important waterways,” said Senator Gillibrand, who is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “The U.S Army Corps of Engineers should move quickly to block Asian carp from entering and becoming established in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.”
Cornell Professor David Lodge, a leading expert on aquatic invasive species, said the consensus among scientist, which is backed up by experience in the Illinois River and other waterways, is that Asian Carp can bring “dramatic changes” to the food webs and fisheries of the waters they invade.
“It’s impossible, of course, to predict with certainty what the impacts would be in the Great Lakes,” Lodge said, though scientists are convinced the fish could, over a few years, attain tremendous abundance that would interfere with recreational and commercial fisheries.
The most eminent threat to the Great Lakes would be if the Asian carp were to migrate into Lake Michigan from the Chicago-area canal system, Lodge said. Many expensive steps have been taken to prevent that but officials know it’s not a perfect set of barriers and on occasion a fish is caught in waters north of the current barriers.
“Common carp have been around for years and are not Asian Carp. There are four major species of Asian Carp with the Bighead being the monster reaching five feet long and 90 pounds,” says Drew Youngedyke, Communications Director for the National Wildlife Federation.
“Great Lakes tourism and fisheries, who are dependent upon sportfishing, could be drastically impacted. Barriers are not foolproof walls. Small carp can get through them. If they get into the Great Lakes, the inlet rivers will all be effected along with inlet lakes. There is enough habitat along the shorelines to support them but at the cost of sportfish.
“It’s important to know,” says Youngedyke, “this isn’t just a Great Lakes problem, it’s a U.S. problem. Kentucky Lake is where hard work is being done to eradicate the fish. Missouri had a project last year for using a quadrant system to take out thousands of Asian Carp. DNA methods to kill them are being researched and may be available in the future.”
Youngedyke continued, “Some people are developing more markets and creating world-wide markets. This sounds good but we are a little nervous about that. If we develop markets, people could drop the carp in other waters to increase the supply.”
Asian Carp reach a weight of over 90 pounds.
The two worse in the group are Bighead and Silver carp. Silver carp are the famous jumpers.
Vibrations in the water cause them to jump, up to ten feet high, making them a danger for fishermen, boaters and water skiers.
Carp have few predators. Due to what they eat, they are difficult to catch for fun with rod and reel methods.
Carp grow rapidly and reproduce up to four times a year. Their numbers overwhelm other species.
When carp get so thick they dominate an area, they disturb or destroy spawning beds along with reducing food for the gamefish fry.
A barrier consists of bubbles and audio of different frequencies to aggravate the carp. It also includes flushing the lock. The latest estimate for a barrier near Chicago is over $770,000.
Asian carp are abundant eaters. They disrupt food webs. In large numbers, such as the Mississippi River Drainage Basin, the fish can become strong competitors and studies show populations of certain sportfish are reduced.
Nicholas Sard, Suny Oswego Assistant Professor, a molecular ecologist who studies fish and wildlife, said, “They’re just this generalist and they have to constantly eat, so they’re eating the things called zooplankton and phytoplankton—these things at the bottom of the food chain that are really important for prey fish of species we’re interested in catching.”
DNA methods may be the longterm way to get rid of the invasive carp, but there will be the pollution and smell of dead fish. And could DNA manipulation possibly have an unexpected result of getting into gamefish? More research is needed.
War On Carp is a coalition to pull groups and agencies together to get more accomplished in the area where the Tennessee, Ohio, Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers merge. They are focusing upon removal of the fish. www.waroncarp.com
Asian Carp Regional Coordination Committer (ACRCC) is a multi-agency group that provides development and implementation of monitoring and response planning. They encourage sharing of information, coordinate implementation, evaluate, etc. Funding is used to monitor, control and develop new technologies and Asian carp in the Great Lakes basin. www.asiancarp.us.
National Wildlife Federation protects natural resources for hunters, anglers, hikers, boaters, campers, farmers and other outdoor enthusiasts. They fight to protect and build upon conservation heritage for now and for future generations.