Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tests come back positive for Asian carp in East Tennessee

Asian carp are moving up the Tennessee River.
(Map adapted from Sperling's Best Places)
"Tests show one of 50 biological samples researchers took below Watts Bar Dam north of Dayton, Tenn., earlier this year came back positive for bighead carp, a species of Asian carp that can be detrimental to the local ecosystem," Mark Pace reports for the Times Free Press in Chattanooga.

There have been no sightings or reports of the fish so far, but the test means a few fish could be in the region, according to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency fishery boss Frank Fiss, speaking at a meeting of the agency's board last week.

Image from WatershedCouncil.org
Fiss said he wants to "get ahead of this" so the fish don't become a problem in East Tennessee. Asian carp have caused huge headaches throughout the South and Midwest, and for good reason: the voracious invasive species can decimate freshwater aquatic ecosystems, outcompeting native species for food. The carp can grow to 100 pounds and leap when frightened, making them a danger to boaters.

"The agency's plan is fourfold: prevent the further movement of carp, remove carp from existing populations, monitor abundance and movements, and communication to inform and request help," Pace reports. The fish are moving up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers from the lower Ohio River; they first found a home in the lower Mississippi River after escaping from fish farms (where they were used for cleaning) but are now threatening to invade the Great Lakes via a Chicago canal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put more money into an appropriations bill to fight the invasion.

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