Fishy situation with huge implications could be solved in our own backyard

Published 10:36 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

On the surface, to use the old expression, the invasion of the Asian, or silver, carp into the Mississippi River and its backwaters over the past 20 years, may seem like a minor problem to the average person.

But the carp is an invasive species that is not native to our environment and can harm surrounding eco-systems, and like many of the invasive species that populate the country it’s causing a problem.

We in the south should be very familiar with invasive species from our experience with kudzu, which was introduced in the late 1800s from Asia as an ornamental plant and to control erosion, and has taken over many hillsides and fields.

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The carp was brought over to help clean sewer lagoons and some escaped in the Mississippi and its tributaries in Arkansas during flood periods. And like kudzu on land, the carp are beginning to take over waterways, not only in the middle and lower Mississippi, but they’ve been spotted in the Pearl River, the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana and Lakes Chotard and Albermarle.

They are a threat not only to our game fish like bass and crappie, but to the local commercial fishing industry, which relies on fish stocks in our rivers and backwater areas.

And that what makes the research on carp at the U.S. Army Research and Development Center so important. The biologists there are working on methods to try and contain the carp from spreading further, and hopefully one day to control already large populations crowding out our native game fish and competing with them for food.

ERDC’s work is something we should support, and point to with a sense of pride. Fisheries biologists Dr. Jan Jefferey Hoover and Dr. Jack Killgore are doing major work on the carp that may one day help develop that program to control the carp and save a local resource that is not only a source of income for some, but a tourist attraction for people who enjoy going after our varieties of game fish.

This is one time science is helping the common good, and the work’s being done here in Vicksburg,