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DNR exploring options for stopping Asian carp

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is gathering input from several sources on potential options to keep Asian carp species, particularly bighead and silver carp, from establishing populations in the Mississippi River upstream of Lock and Dam No. 8 (near Genoa, Wis.) and other Minnesota waters.

The two species of Asian carp are invasive fish spreading to lakes and rivers in several areas of the Mississippi River basin, including rivers in Iowa. Both bighead and silver carp, which can grow to four feet in length and weigh over 60 pounds, reproduce quickly and can establish large populations. Both species are also known to leap several feet out of the water at the sound of a boat motor.

Because bighead and silver grass carp feed on plankton, these fish compete for food directly with native organisms including mussels, all larval fish and some large fish such as paddlefish. Their establishment could also be harmful to native game fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife in the state. In some locations on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers they are replacing large percentages of the native fish.

?We feel these fish represent a very serious threat to the health and use of the Mississippi River and eventually to other state waters,? said Jay Rendall, DNR exotic species coordinator. ?It?s necessary to explore all options in preventing them from establishing populations in any Minnesota waters.?

Among those providing input on Asian carp species and potential efforts to limit their spread are: DNR representatives from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geologic Survey, the University of Minnesota, and Smith-Root ? a private company that designs fish barriers. Smith-Root recently visited the state at the request of the DNR to tour areas along the Mississippi River where the carp may first appear in the state.

Bighead and silver carp were imported into North America in the early 1970s to remove algae from aquaculture ponds. Silver and bighead carp escaped to open waters of the Mississippi River basin in southern states by the 1980s. Other pathways that could contribute to their spread in Minnesota and other states include the unintentional use of juveniles, which can resemble several species of baitfish, as bait and the illegal release of adult fish into waters.

Boaters and anglers on the Mississippi River below Winona should keep an eye out for the jumping fish. Characteristics of bighead and silver carp include a low-set eye; large upturned mouth without barbells, scaleless head and small scales on the body. ?Bighead and Silver Carp Watch? identification cards are available from the DNR Information Center 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367) and Minnesota Sea Grant Program (218) 726-8712.

Anyone who sees or catches a bighead or silver carp is asked to report it and bring it to their local DNR fisheries office for identification.

These fish should not be thrown back in the water if they jump into a boat or are caught.

Four species of Asian carp? bighead, black, grass, and silver ? are ?prohibited exotic species? and their possession, sale, and transportation other than to the DNR is illegal/prohibited.




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