Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Biologists fear Asian carp invasion of Southeastern rivers

Silver carp jump out of the Fox River in Illinois, presumably after an electric shock. But they often jump out
of the water on their own, posing danger to boaters. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Ryan Hagerty)
The battle to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes is well-known, but now one of the species, the silver carp, "a voracious, fast-moving and highly invasive species ravaging the Upper Mississippi River, has set its sights on the Tennessee, Cumberland, Yazoo and other Southern streams," Dan Chapman reports for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Another species, the black carp, is following in its tracks.

University of Alabama map shows waterways
of state, including Tennessee-Tombigbee canal
The carp pose the same risk there as they do in the Great Lakes: they eat the food normally eaten by native fish, starving them out. That could be a big problem for the ecosystem, as well as anglers and the recreational economy that depends on them.

The carp were imported to eat grass at fish farms in the Lower Mississippi River. They escaped and migrated upstream to the Illinois River and its tributaries, posing a threat to the Great Lakes via canals that leads to Lake Michigan. In the Southeast, the biggest concern is "in invasion of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which allows passage to Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico," Chapman reports. That would also put the carp in the Tombigbee River, a tributary of the Alabama, which has tributaries in northern Georgia.

State and federal biologists are tracking the carps' upstream push. FWS biologist Angie Rodgers told Chapman, "The Southeast is a hotspot of biodiversity, so we’re trying to prevent further declines in at-risk species. It’s a big threat . . . There’s not a magic bullet to get rid of them. It’s just a matter of working together to slow their movement and potential impact."

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