Grass Carp Management in the Midwest:
Carterville FWCO is Here to Help
BY SAM FINNEY, CARTERVILLE FWCO
Although bighead and silver carps seem to get all the attention, another species of Asian carp is actively managed in the Midwest Region as well. Grass carp. Brought in to the United States in the 1960s as a biological alternative to controlling aquatic plants (as opposed to using chemicals), grass carp are more commonly accepted, and sometimes actively stocked by resource agencies. Grass carp have already become established in some waters of the United States, but there is active management to keep them from becoming established in areas where they currently are not. Some states allow stocking of grass carp that are able to spawn (diploid), others only allow fish that are spawned in hatcheries to be functionally sterile (triploid), while still others hold a complete ban on grass carp.
The Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) has been helping to manage and control grass carp in two ways. First, Carterville FWCO is currently the sole station in the Midwest that participates in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) National Triploid Grass Carp Certification and Inspection Program, which is run out of the Southeast Region. This program provides a service to the states that only allow triploid grass carp, by testing and certifying grass carp raised at commercial farms to be triploid. Over the past couple of years, the Service’s program has certified more than 1 million fish for nationwide distribution. Several Carterville FWCO biologists are trained as inspectors and regularly certify grass carp from two farms in Illinois, but have inspected other farms in the past and may do so again in the future. In addition to performing certifications, Carterville has been involved in the review of the Memorandum of Agreement, and national rule making between the Service and participating grass carp producers in the program.
The second way that Carterville FWCO has been helping to control and manage grass carp is by being an integral part of the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association’s national review of grass carp. This comprehensive review has been focused on examining the production, triploid certification, shipping, regulation, and stocking of grass carp in the United States. The product of this review, out later this year, will be a report to the Service with recommendations for reducing the spread of grass carp in the United States. The report recommends a national policy strategy for grass carp management nationwide, and it is anticipated that this will be discussed among state agencies when the report is final.
Make no mistake about it, grass carp are a species not native to this country, that are better off not established in the wild. With this in mind though, there is a long history of some level of responsible use of grass carp as a biological control. As the Service, our state partners, and the public we serve become more aware of negative effects from introduced species, we owe it to ourselves to continue to grow as responsible users of these resources.