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State Officials Investigate Asian Carp Threat

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says he is asking national experts to help address the threat of Asian carp in Indiana waters.

The Indiana attorney general and the director of the federal government’s Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, part of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, are traveling down the Wabash River to talk to local conservation groups and assess the threat Asian carp pose to Indiana waterways.

The team stopped in Terre Haute on Wednesday during the third day of the tour to talk to local officials about what they have seen.

Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett says city officials have been raising concerns for years about the impact Asian carp are having on the area’s most important natural resource – the Wabash River.

“When people could see the fish jumping out of the water, it was a shock. You couldn’t picture that,” Bennett says. “A lot of them haven’t seen it though, because they haven’t been on the river themselves. The Asian carp has really taken off and become an issue.”

The invasive fish, which was introduced to the U.S. in the 1970s to control weed and parasite growth in aquatic farms, can harm native fish because it breeds rapidly and crowds out the other fish.

A map from the University of Wisconsin shows how Asian carp, also known as Bighead and Silver carp, made their way into Indiana after traveling up the Mississippi River. They have been found mainly in the Ohio and Wabash Rivers.

asian carp map

Photo: University of Wisconsin

A map indicates how Asian carp have spread north toward the Great Lakes.

The map also indicates where conservation officials in Illinois have installed an electric barrier aimed at keeping the fish from making their way into Lake Michigan. Some people suggested Indiana should take similar measures, but a Purdue University study released in December 2012 indicates electric barriers are not a viable solution.

“Based on these results, the use of electrical barriers to control bigheaded carps at early life history stages is likely impractical due to the large voltage gradients and high power densities necessary to transfer lethal power to embryos in open systems with ambient conductivities.”

Researchers said the amount of electricity it would take to kill the Asian carp embryos in the water would be hazardous to people and other aquatic life.

In addition, the electric barriers may not be as effective as some hoped. Researchers have found Asian carp DNA past the electric barriers and a study published this year indicates there is likely already Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

For now, Attorney General Zoeller is focusing on the spread of Asian carp in the Wabash River, which he calls an Indiana icon.

“Indiana did not cause the problem, and we are going to ask for some help in addressing the problem. I don’t think Hoosiers should be the one that have to pay all the cost to clean up the Wabash all the other rivers in our states,” Zoeller says.

Zoeller is warning people that the problem with Asian carp needs to be addressed now because it is only going to get worse.  He is continuing his tour Thursday and will end in New Harmony.

Gretchen Frazee contributed to this report.

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