Asian carp have been farmed in China for over 1,000 years, serving as an ancient food staple throughout Asia. Their native homeland ranges from southern China north into eastern Russia, and possibly even northern Vietnam. Species of concern include the black (Mylopharyngodon piceus), bighead (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), grass (Ctenopharyngodon idella), and silver (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) carp, and are collectively known as “Asian carp.”
Asian carp were brought to the United Sates in the 60s and 70s for use in government agency and academic research, in sewage treatment plants; and as a biological control for algae, plants and snails in aquaculture.
Since then, these nonnative fish escaped these environments and spread rampantly through the fresh waterways of the Mississippi River Basin. Now they are pushing the boundaries of the Great Lakes and entering Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, threatening multi-billion-dollar fishing industries. Their destruction continues at an alarming rate, leaving native ecosystems demolished, commercial fisheries in despair, and countless livelihoods crippled.
Asian Carp (Silver, Bighead, Black and Grass) US Distribution (2015).
Note: These data (maps) are preliminary or provisional and are subject to revision. They are being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The data have not received final approval by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and are provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the US Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the data.
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We recognize with gratitude the aid our government has given to help halt Asian carp from harming the Great Lakes. They must continue to do everything in their power to prevent carp from destroying the fisheries economy and ecology of the earth’s largest freshwater ecosystem. They are installing an additional electrical barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, with plans to build the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, 50 miles downstream from Lake Michigan.
Asian carp are in at least 28 states and steering toward more. Crucial to resolving the Asian carp crisis is a solution that not only protects the Great Lakes, but also directly tackles the continued destruction that Asian carp impose on native habits and lives throughout the Mississippi River Basin, and our country.
A solution that meets basic human needs and ensures humankind does not pay a hefty price…
In the US, 1 in 5 children suffer from hunger, over 600,000 people are homeless and without proper nutrition, and countless communities are at risk. Yet, we have a bounty of wild natural nutrition rich resources in invasive species that is simply being wasted.
The Asian silver and bighead carp. Both reproduce by the millions, silver can grow to upwards 80 lbs, and bighead upwards 100 lbs. Both are voracious eaters. They devour the primary food source of native fish: zooplankton, phytoplankton, algae, and detritus at a daily rate of two to three times their body weight
Since their diet coincides with that of certain native species, they are powerful ecological competitors. In fact, they have the potential to displace and/or consume native populations of fishes, plants mollusks, and other invertebrates, causing devastating ecological and economic impacts to commercial fisheries.
Nutrition Consultant Dr. Roy Brabham talks about Asian carp as an “excellent food source”:
“I consider Asian carp to be an excellent food source for a number of reasons. Like all fish, it delivers a lot of protein and healthy fats. Unlike ocean fish, sustainability is not an issue with Asian carp. It is overrunning the central American waterways, making it a nuisance and crowding out other species. It feeds on plankton, which is at the bottom of the food chain. This means that progressive food chain concentrations of harmful chemicals such as dioxin and PCB’s and heavy metals such as mercury, do not occur in Asian carp like they do in carnivorous and omnivorous fish."
Today, many believe that Asian carp escaped from fish farms in Arkansas. In the 1970s, the first documented Asian carp, most notably silver and bighead, were brought to the United States by Jim Malone, a fish farmer from Lonoke, Arkansas. When the Mississippi River was hit by severe flooding in both the 1970s and 1990s, and thousands of Asian carp fled into the Mississippi River basin, it became popular opinion that Arkansas fish farmers were to blame for their escape.
Although it is true that Jim Malone brought in the first documented Asian carp in the early 1970s, he actually gave the fish primarily to various government agencies for experimentation, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Auburn University in Alabama and the Illinois Natural History Survey also received some of his fish too.
These organizations used the Asian carp to conduct research to determine whether the fish could be stocked in sewage ponds to clean them, and in other types of ponds to eat aquatic vegetation. The fish were a less expensive, more natural biological control in ponds than harsh chemicals.
The EPA researched bighead and silver carp in sewage ponds for two years, starting in 1979, in Benton, Ark. The carp “made the water clean enough to drink,” said Mike Freeze, a fish farmer and fish biologist who once worked for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
“When small towns in Arkansas couldn’t meet EPA requirements for clean water discharged from their sewer plants, the agency required them to stock the carp to clean up those ponds,” Freeze said..
Freeze, who led research on the carp between 1977 and 1983, said he’s certain some of the carp escaped on his watch. “We know we lost fish from our facilities,” he said, referring to the Game and Fish Commission.
“In those days, no one was concerned about invasive species,” Freeze said. “The fish were kept in ponds that had mesh screens over them, but sometimes the screens were not on or had mesh that was large enough for young fish to escape into drainage ditches that led to streams and then to larger rivers.”