Monday, April 22, 2019

Southern states seek more federal funds to fight Asian carp

Wall Street Journal map, adapted from U.S. Geological Survey
Asian carp have been worrying Midwestern states and Great Lakes cities for years, but in the past few years they've been an increasing problem in the South. The number of Asian carp recorded in inland waters has more than doubled in the past five years, mostly driven by the invasive species' spread to the mid-South, Atlanta-based Cameron McWhirter reports for The Wall Street Journal.

The fish pose the same threat in the South as they have in the North: the voracious fish crowd out native species and hurt local ecosystems and fishing industries. Efforts to control the fish cost millions annually, and some states don't have the money for it. "The affected Southern states are pushing for $12 million in federal funding to control the spread of carp, a big increase from the $600,000 they secured this fiscal year," McWhirter reports. "Anglers spend about $2.9 billion annually in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, the American Sportfishing Association estimates."

State and federal officials in southern states employ several strategies to prevent Asian carp from getting into local waters (or remove them, if that fails). A pioneering public-private program in Kentucky pays anglers for carp and auctions the catches online, mostly to Chinese buyers. And scientists are trying to better understand carp reproduction to help them find ways to limit fish populations, McWhirter reports. 

Officials in several states "are seeking choke points such as dams, locks or narrows where they can build electric or sound barriers to scare away the fish because carp are sensitive to sound," McWhirter reports. "They also are subsidizing commercial-fishing ventures and sponsoring recreational tournaments focused solely on carp." It's difficult to catch carp though: since they eat plankton they must be caught with a net rather than a baited hook.

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