Wednesday, June 05, 2019

McConnell, seeking re-election, touts efforts to manage Asian carp, including corraling and electroshock harvesting

McConnell speaks in Calvert City, Ky. (WKDZ Radio photo)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom The Economist dubbed one of the 100 most important people in the world, has many concerns, from dealing with President Trump to keeping a Republican majority in the Senate next year. But he spent much of a day last week talking about fish. And that is likely to be part of his re-election campaign in Kentucky.

McConnell's efforts to keep invasive, voracious Asian carp out of Kentucky waterways, and a visit to promote that effort, earned him a 1,682-word story in the weekly Marshall County Tribune Courier, in the native county of McConnell's Kentucky chief of staff, Terry Carmack of Fairdealing.

"McConnell's message during an Asian carp update in Calvert City last week was, help is on the way and the future is optimistic, reports Rachel Keller Collins. "Between the BAFF (bioacoustic fish fence) scheduled for installation at Barkley Dam next month, the modified Unified [Fishing] Method scheduled to arrive by early 2020, and the cooperation of federal, state and local government officials with various experts, McConnell said he's confident they can collectively solve the problem to ensure tourism does not further decline in the Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley region."

"This is my top priority for Western Kentucky not only for this year but for as long as it takes to finish it," he said. His record six straight Senate elections in Kentucky has been built in large measure on support from the state's historically Democratic western third, which now votes Republican. The two lakes are major economic drivers, and the carp invasion is a threat to fishers, Bassmaster reports.

Allen Brown, assistant regional director of fish and aquatic conservation in the Southeast for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "said the BAFF . . . is a customized sound-and-air-bubble curtain design to restrict migration," Collins reports. "Duane Chapman, research fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey . . . said the Unified Method is designed as a way to fish a substantial portion of a large body of water as a unit, which he said is perfect" for the two huge lakes on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.

Unified fishers "block off a cove using electro-fishing gear and underwater loud speakers to corral and direct the Asian carp cell by cell until they reach the 'killing zone,' at which point they're removed in very large quantities," Collins writes. The technique was developed in China, the market for carp caught in the area, and "has been modified to fit the local market and local needs." Chapman said, "It's worked really well in some other places."

Ryan Brooks, fisheries director for Kentucky, "said the No. 1 concern he hears is creating an industry reliant upon Asian carp and then running out of the fish, which would leave the industry in need of subsidies," Collins reports. But Brooks added, "Fortunately or unfortunately for both sides of the issue, we are never in our lifetime going to be in a place where we've eradicated all the Asian carp out of the rivers. There's thousands and thousands of miles of Asian carp from the Mississippi Delta up through and into Wisconsin and Minnesota now."

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