Officials try to find what killed invasive carp
July 21, 2013 at 08:10 PM
The Associated Press
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Wildlife officials are trying to figure out what killed hundreds of Asian carp in the Missouri River this spring.
The answer to the mystery could help protect other fish and might provide clues as to how to deal with the invasive carp.
Fisheries biologist Jeff Schuckman said no one has come up with a good explanation for the fish kill yet, the Sioux City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/13OuYtc ).
The rotting carcasses of hundreds of silver carp were found in the river's slow backwaters near Vermillion, S.D., and Ponca, Neb. Another incident was reported in Nebraska North Platte River near where it joins the Missouri River.
Both those fish kills were reported in May.
The unexplained deaths worry wildlife officials even though the carp is an unwanted species that's competing for food with native fish and growing fast. Silver, bighead and grass carp have all been found in the Missouri River.
"A lot of people think, 'Oh, it's just Asian carp,' or, 'It's just common carp' that are dying, but that's a big deal to us," said Schuckman, who works for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The number of Asian carp found in the Missouri River soared after the record flooding of 2011. Wildlife officials worry about the ravenous carp's ability to dominate an ecosystem.
Silver carp also represent a safety hazard for boaters because they can hurl their bodies into the paths of boaters when startled.
Officials don't think the carp that died near Vermillion, S.D., starved because they weren't thin.
"What I observed was a single-species die-off, and that makes me think it was something else involved," Schuckman said.
Disease may have caused the fish deaths, but officials weren't able to take any samples from this spring's fish kills.
It's possible that whatever killed carp along the Missouri River this spring could help officials control the Asian carp population, but it's too soon to know that.
And if disease killed the carp this spring, officials might still be reluctant to use that as a control measure because a disease could mutate and affect other species.
Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.