Black carp in Illinois sparks concern

A black carp like this one – but much bigger – was donate to researchers as they continue studies on the fish in the Mississippi River. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

PEORIA, Ill. — A new Asian carp found in central Illinois has prompted concern about native wildlife.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials say a black carp was caught in April in the Illinois River south of Peoria, more than 100 miles north of where the species has been recorded.

Only a few dozen black carp have ever been caught in the state’s waters, but it’s an invasive species that could have a serious effect on native wildlife, The Journal Star reported.

“If black carp become established in North American ecosystems, their feeding habits could drastically modify the ecological balance and forever change our native aquatic systems,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote about 15 years ago as part of its invasive species program.

The black carp eats mussels and snails, some species of which are listed as threatened or endangered amid competition with exotic species, loss of habitat and pollution. The native birds, fish, turtles and otters that also feed on mussels also could be affected.

“Here comes this next species, the fourth species of Asian carp, so we’ve got four species doing damage to different parts of the ecosystem,” said Dan Stephenson, the department’s chief of fisheries.

A bounty has been offered for black carp since 2015, as biologists recruit commercial fishermen to help track the invasion. Fishermen can collect $100 from the federal government for catching a black carp.

There are more than 1,000 licensed commercial fishermen who serve as on-the-ground observers of the state’s aquatic wildlife.

Categories: Asian Carp, News

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