Photo: Kate Gardiner (flickr)
Attorney General Greg Zoeller took a trip down the Wabash last week with an expert from the federal government’s Asian Carp Coordinating Committee. The fish have taken up residence in waterways throughout the Mississippi basin. In Indiana, that includes not only the Wabash but the White and Ohio Rivers as well. Zoeller says he got to see one of the species’ special behaviors up close.
“They jumped up…en masse, I would say. You know, literally tens if not hundreds. Twice, fish flopped into our boat,” Zoeller said.
Some Asian carp can grow up to 90 pounds, posing a danger if they leap in front of boaters. But the main concern is that they eat up plankton more effectively than native fish, and crowd them out. Electrical barriers in Chicago and a mesh fence near Fort Wayne serve to keep them out of the Great Lakes.
Purdue University Professor Reuben Goforth says so far, there’s no “silver bullet” for removing the fish from the waterways they’ve colonized. Plans for combatting them range from putting up more barriers, to finding a poison that would kill Asian carp but not other fish, to disturbing the fishes’ reproductive cycle with noises they find annoying.
He also says people should clean their boats before moving between waterways – and refrain from throwing leftover bait fish overboard – so they don’t spread the carp to new waters.
“The best thing we can do right now, as we are trying to find more effective measures, is to continue to keep barriers in operation, particularly the one near Chicago, but also to harvest them,” said Goforth
Indiana Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Phil Bloom says Asian Carp can be made into fertilizer, fish pills or animal feed. But they also make a nice lunch.
“It is a very white, firm flesh, but very bony. So you’ve got to be a little bit careful of that. Uh, very mild taste, and deep fried, quite good to eat,” said Bloom.
Bloom says since the fish feed on plankton, they don’t tend to accumulate pollutants. But their bottom-feeding habits mean they’re hard to catch on a hook.
That’s why fishing for Asian carp commercially might be part of the containment plan.
The federal government aims to spend more than $50 million – spread across agencies ranging from the US Geological Survey to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – combating the carp problem in fiscal year 2013.