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Important, Interstate Shipment of Black Carp Would Be Banned Under Rule Proposed By Wildlife Agency


July 30, 2002

Mitch Snow, 202/219-9807

The black carp, used by American aquaculture farmers to control snails but feared by scientists who see potential widespread damage should the fish escape into the wild, would be banned from further importation into the United States as well as in interstate transport under a U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposal to name the black carp as an injurious species.

The proposed rule, published in today's Federal Register, would invoke the Injurious Wildlife Provision of the Lacey Act, and is in response to concerns about the possible impact of black carp on imperiled native mussels and snails in the Mississippi River basin, outlined in a petition to the Service by the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resources Association. The only exceptions to the bans imposed would be for zoological, educational, medical or scientific purposes.

Black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus), also known as snail carp, Chinese black carp, black amur, Chinese roach and black Chinese roach, is a freshwater fish that inhabits lakes and lower reaches of rivers in the wild. It was first brought to the U.S. in the early 1970s in a shipment of imported grass carp that were shipped to a private fish farm in Arkansas.

A second introduction occurred in the early 1980s when the fish was imported as food and as a biological control agent to combat the spread of yellow grub (Clinostomum margaritum) in aquaculture farms. Unlike other species of Asian carp, black carp have not been found in the wild.

The black carp, native to parts of China, Russia and Vietnam, can reach 5 feet in length, weigh up to 150 pounds and live up to 15 years. A single female can produce 129,000 to 1.18 million eggs. Black carp feed on zooplankton and fingerlings when small, but as adults, their powerful teeth permit the black carp to crush the thick shells of large mollusks.

Yellow grubs, which are carried by the ram's horn snail, appear to be controlled with the elimination of the snail from aquaculture farms, especially those populated by channel catfish and certain species of striped bass, and black carp have been found to be effective in feeding on the snail.

It is not known how many of the 396 catfish aquaculture facilities in North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida might be threatened by yellow grubs, but data presented by the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center at Mississippi State University at an Asian Carp Workshop in April, 2000, suggested that only 1.5 percent of existing catfish farms and one research station had permits for black carp, and five additional farms and another research station were awaiting approval.

However effective black carp might be in the control of yellow grubs, there are alternative means: chemical control with hydrated lime, copper sulfate and aquatic herbicides that have been shown to greatly reduce the snail population and in conjunction with biological control, can eliminate snail infestation during catfish production.

Were black carp to escape from aquaculture ponds and enter rivers and tributaries of the lower Mississippi River, they would pose a "significant threat," the Service reported, to commercial shellfish stocks and threatened and endangered mollusks. "The value of the potential loss to the citizens of the affected States cannot be estimated at this time, but it is believed to be substantial," according to a Service document. Other species of Asian carp which are established in the wild have caused significant ecological impacts in the Mississippi Basin.

Freshwater mussels, while providing valuable service as natural filters, are also harvested and used to make seeds for cultured pearls. Black carp that escape into the wild may pose a grave threat to that industry as well.

Public comment on the proposal to list the black carp as an injurious species under the
Lacey Act will remain open for 60 days. Comments should be mailed to the Chief, Division of Environmental Quality, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22203, transmitted by fax to the same address at 703-358-1800 or sent by e-mail to in an SCCII format.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting and fishing equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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