Black Carp Captures Accelerate
Black Carp Research Program Established
BY GRACE LOPPNOW, CARTERVILLE FWCO
Black carp are the most recently-introduced of the four species of Asian carp. Black carp were first released in the United States in 1994, during a flood at a Missouri aquaculture farm. Their current known range includes parts of the Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri, Kaskaskia, and Cache Rivers. Black carp captures are being reported more frequently, with more reported in the past year than in any previous year. Black carp are molluscivores, and therefore their spread may pose a threat to native freshwater mussel and snail communities.
Little is known about the biology, actual impacts, or range of black carp. Research is accelerating in an attempt to ascertain the necessary information while containment and control may still be possible. Researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), Southern Illinois University (SIU), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) are all working on projects related to black carp (Emy Monroe, Quinton Phelps, Duane Chapman, Greg Whitledge, and Rick Lance personal communication).
The USFWS Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) began research into the range of black carp in 2016. USFWS Fish Biologist Patty Herman and Wes Sleeper of MDC sampled various sites in the Mississippi River and intermittently connected waters in the Mississippi River floodplain. They discovered the first evidence of reproduction in the wild, when Wes found young-of-the-year black carp in an agricultural ditch that connects to the Mississippi River near Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
This year, Carterville FWCO is partnering with MDC and SIU to establish permanent sampling sites to monitor the range of black carp. FWS will establish sites in the lower Ohio River, while MDC samples Missouri waters and SIU samples Illinois waters. This combined effort will test various types of fishing gear and habitat in an attempt to improve our ability to capture black carp. Captured black carp will be used by the FWS Whitney Genetics lab, USGS, SIU, and ERDC for genetic, diet, microchemistry, and morphometric analysis. The data from this project will be important for informing the management of black carp and determining the next steps for black carp research.