Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Invasive Asian Carp Species Caught in St. Croix River (Updated)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has reported that a commercial angler caught a 27-pound bighead carp in the lower St. Croix River on April 18.  According to a DNR Media Release issued on April 20, the catch of the carp "is the sixth incident of bighead carp being caught in the Mississippi River bordering Minnesota, but the only the second bighead carp caught near the St. Croix River. In 1996, a bighead was caught in the St. Croix  River north of its confluence with the Mississippi River."  Bighead carp can grow to reach weights of 110 pounds.

Here is April 20 news media video coverage of the Bighead carp catch:

The bighead carp is one of eight species of non-native carp species that have been released in North America outside of their native Asian or European ranges, causing ecosystem problems in their wake.  The eight include:
  • Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
  • Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) Common carp are European in origin
  • Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)
  • Largescale silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys harmandi)
  • Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis)
  • Black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus)
  • Common goldfish (Carassius auratus)
  • Crucian carp (Carassius carassius)
  • Mud carp (Cirrhinus molitorella)
Background Information
Asian Carp distribution in relation to the Upper Mississippi River Lock and Dam system
The Upper Mississippi River (UMR) from the mouth of the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois, to the beginning of the commercial shipping channel at Minneapolis, Minnesota, covers a distance of about 843 river miles. In the UMR a series of 29 locks and dams control 642 miles of its northernmost portion. The heads at the dams during low flows range from about seven to 38 feet, but approach zero at most dams during high flows.

While UMR dams (i.e., upstream of Cairo, Illinois) have been thought, anecdotally, to present at least a partial barrier to native and nonnative fish passage, several studies have documented that that passage opportunities do occur and that some fish species can pass through the UMR system of dams.  Opportunities for passage vary due to hydrologic conditions at the dams, differences in dam design and operation, and differences in the swimming performance of fish. The UMR supports 143 species of native fish and numerous nonnative species. Nonnative species compose a high percentage of total fish biomass throughout the UMR system (varying among four Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP) sampling locations from about 30 to 60%).  Most of the nonnative biomass is from Common carp, but recently numbers and biomass of invasive Asian carp have increased substantially.

The LTRMP was authorized under the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 as an element of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Environmental Management Program. The LTRMP is being implemented by the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, a U.S. Geological Survey science center, in cooperation with the five UMR System states (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin).

Nonnative fish dispersal into the UMR may be slowed at Lock and Dam 19, which has the highest head (36 feet) among dams in the mid-portion of the UMR system and is a more substantial barrier to fish migration than other dams, including Lock and Dam 11 (Wilcox et al. 2004). Asian carp have achieved notable abundance in the lower reaches of the UMR system.  This has been widely reported in the media.  Asian carp are now commercially harvested in those areas.
Monitoring of environmental trends, including the occurrence and abundance of native and nonnative fish species, in the UMR has occurred under the LTRMP.  Since 1989 the LTRMP has conducted ongoing fish studies in four “Study Areas for Long Term Resource Monitoring Fish Sampling,” which include pools 4, 8, 13, 26 (behind the respectively-numbered dams) and the open river reach below the lock and dam system (see a map of the study areas here).
Asian carp (grass, bighead and silver carp) were first collected by the LTRMP in Pool 26 at Alton, Illinois, in 1993. As of 2004, those species have not been collected by LTRMP[1] above Pool 26, but a few individuals have been collected by other means (commercial fishing operations and recreational anglers[2]) as far north as Pool 4 (Lake City, Minnesota).   No LTRMP sampling has occurred in pool 11, upstream of Lock and Dam 11; the closest LTRMP sampling to Lock and Dam 11 occurs at pool 13 (Bellevue, Iowa). 
Ecology and fate of nonnative species in the UMR system
Once established, nonnative species are nearly impossible to control, and then only at great expense. The Mississippi River and its principal tributaries provide a highway for nonnative species to travel from areas as geographically disparate as the Atlantic Gulf Coast and the Laurentian Great Lakes to the interior of the North American continent. As evidenced by recent data, recently established populations of silver and bighead carp in the southern portions of the UMR system can be expected to increase in abundance and expand their distribution within the UMR. Additional species, including round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) and black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceusare) are poised to invade the UMR from the Great Lakes and from down river sources, respectively. Because of the ability of many nonnative fish species to compete with and displace native species, nonnative species will remain a principal threat to native biodiversity in the foreseeable future in the Mississippi River drainage.
Contact for additional information on nonnative fish species, including Asian carp:
Brian Ickes, Research Statistician
U.S. Geological Survey
 Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
2630 Fanta Reed Road
 La Crosse, Wisconsin 54603
Phone: 608.783.6451
Citations for fish information summarized above:
2007 Annual Status Report: A Summary of Fish Data in Six Reaches of the Upper Mississippi River System

 Johnson, B. L., and K. H. Hagerty, editors. 2008. Status and trends of selected resources of the Upper Mississippi River System. U.S. Geological Survey, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, La Crosse, Wisconsin, December 2008. Technical Report LTRMP 2008-T002. 102 pp + Appendixes A–B.

[1] It should be noted that LTRMP sampling methods are relatively ineffective at collecting Asian carp; therefore, LTRMP estimates of their proportion in the total catch are probably low. So, although no trends were apparent in LTRMP data from the southern reaches of the UMR, LTRMP estimates of Asian carp biomass may be low and the percentage of nonnative biomass may actually be increasing in these reaches.

[2] In the fall of 2008, a commercial fishing operation netted one silver carp, two grass carp and one bighead carp in Pool 8, which stretches from La Crosse south to Genoa, Wisconsin. This was the first confirmed silver carp reported in Wisconsin and the first seen upstream of Clinton, Iowa. Several more silver carp were captured in Pool 8 in early 2009, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

1 comment:

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