Alden DuMontierFriday, March 3, 2023
An invasive fish, the Asian carp, is now making its way into Alabama rivers. There are actually four species of Asian carp invading waterways across the US: grass carp, silver carp, bighead carp, and black carp. Silver carp and bighead carp right now are the most imminent threats to Alabama's environment, especially in the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers.
According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Outdoor Resources, "In the same way feral hogs devastate habitat resources for native wildlife, silver carp have the potential to outcompete with other native species for food, including important game fish." A single silver or bighead carp can lay more than 3,000,000 eggs a year. Asian carp can eat up to 120% of their body weight daily.
Also, silver carp often jump out of the water when they hear loud noises, including boat motors. This is problematic because the carp can shut down entire stretches of river when schools of them start jumping; they can hit boaters and seriously injure them. Experts say that if boaters see many jumping carp, they should slowly retreat from the area to avoid impacts.
Asian carp were introduced in the U.S in the 1960s to help clean ponds and fish-farmers' tanks, but some escaped during flooding and in other ways.
The U.S. is employing several strategies to try to keep carp populations in check, including using electricity to herd, stun, and catch the fish. Another method is commercializing carp, which can be used for human consumption, bait, and fertilizer, and new uses are being investigated.
Many Americans do not know that this fish is edible, because we tend to avoid fish with lots of bones, so carp caught in the U.S is generally exported back to Asia, where it is a staple food. Fishermen and wildlife experts from the Great Lakes down to Alabama hope that, however it's done, we can keep Asian carp populations low enough so native species aren't wiped out.
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