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PSR 2000-05  November 2000

Asian Carp Invasion of the Upper Mississippi River System

by Todd M. Koel, Kevin S. Irons, and Eric Ratcliff

Five species of Asian carp now occur in the contiguous United States. These include grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molotrix), bighead carp (H. nobilis) and black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus). Common carp, brought to the United States from Europe in 1831, were soon propagated and distributed throughout waters of the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS). Figure 1. locations of LTRMP trend analysis areas.Grass carp were imported from eastern Asia in 1963 to control submersed aquatic vegetation in aquaculture ponds and were first documented in the Mississippi River along Illinois in 1971. Silver carp and bighead carp were imported from China in 1973 to improve water quality of aquaculture ponds (initially in Arkansas). These species have invaded our Midwestern rivers, through pond escapement or by deliberate introductions and were first documented in the UMRS as early as 1982. Reproducing populations of these four species are now present in the UMRS. Presently black carp, which are mollusk eaters, only exist in aquaculture ponds of Arkansas and Mississippi.

LTRMP documents the spread of Asian Carp  Since initiating fish community sampling in 1990, the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP) has been collecting Asian carp from multiple aquatic habitats of six reaches of the UMRS (Figure 1) and documenting changes in abundance and size structure of these potentially harmful fishes. Common carp were abundant thoughout the UMRS long before the LTRMP began. The next species of Asian carp collected by the LTRMP was a 48-cm grass carp taken by electrofishing in September 1990 from the Illinois River, La Grange Reach. Bighead carp were first collected by the LTRMP in 1991 from Pool 26, and silver carp first appeared in our collections in 1998. No Asian carp other than the common carp have been collected from Pools 8 or 13.

Figure 2. Annual catch of Asian carp statistics for the LTRMP

Since 1990, standard and research monitoring (June 15–October 31 annually) by the LTRMP has documented variation and increases in total catch of three recently invading Asian carp species (Figure 2).The total catch of grass carp in 1997 was 26 from Pool 26 and 229 from the La Grange Reach. During June 15–September 15, 2000, we collected 25 grass carp from Pool 26 and 200 from the La Grange Reach. Fewer silver carp have been caught. The catch of silver carp increased from two in 1998 to seven in 2000 at Pool 26, and from two in 1998 to 39 in 2000 in the La Grange Reach. Bighead carp catches from Pool 26 steadily increased from one specimen per year in 1991– 1993 to 102 fish during our first two sampling efforts in 2000. In contrast, bighead carp catches from La Grange Reach remained relatively low (0–3 fish per year) through 1999 and then sharply increased to 627 in 2000. Most of these were young-of-the-year or juvenile fish, indicating that this species is reproducing in this reach of the UMRS.

Table 1. Total catch and percentage (%) of Asian carp collected by the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program in aquatic habitats of the Upper Mississippi River System, 1990–1999.
Habitat
grass carp
silver carp
bighead carp
all Asian carp
contiguous backwater open
4
1%
0
0%
59
21%
63
8%
contiguous backwater shoreline
99
21%
1
14%
20
7%
120
16%
impounded open
1
0%
0
0%
12
4%
13
2%
impounded shoreline
7
1%
0
0%
2
1%
9
1%
main channel border unstructured
229
48%
2
29%
74
26%
305
40%
main channel border wing dam
5
1%
1
14%
22
8%
28
4%
side channel border
91
19%
2
29%
53
19%
146
19%
tributary mouth
17
4%
0
0%
33
12%
50
7%
tailwater zone
17
4%
1
14%
1
0%
19
2%
other
3
1%
0
0%
6
2%
9
1%
Total catch 1990-1999
473
 
7
 
282
 
762
 

To some extent, we have also noticed species-specific habitat preferences. Catch of all species was highest in unstructured main channel borders (Table 1). However, grass carp catches were also relatively high along contiguous backwater shorelines. Bighead carp catches were also relatively high in contiguous backwater open habitats.

Asian carp are not readily caught with some sampling gears. For example, they are often seen breaking the water surface many meters ahead and along the sides of our electrofishing boats. Asian carp have often entered our boats without the use of dip nets. In fact, many of our staff members have been hit multiple times by large jumping fish. From 1990 to 1999, 69% of Asian carp shorter than 20 cm were collected by mini-fyke netting (Table 2). Asian carp 20 to 60 cm were primarily collected by day electrofishing (49%) and hoop netting (15%). Asian carp larger than 60 cm were primarily collected by hoop netting (42%). These results indicate that multiple sampling gears may be needed for assessing the abundance and size structure of Asian carp populations in our large rivers.

Table 2. Percentage of all Asian carp collected by standard and experimental LTRMP gear,1990-1999
Gear
Total Length (mm)
<200 200-599 >600
Day electrofishing
5%
49%
17%
Experimental trawl
13%
0%
1%
Fyke netting
1%
10%
6%
Gill netting
0%
7%
23%
Hoop netting (large)
0%
15%
42%
Mini-fyke netting
69%
2%
1%
Night electrofishing
0%
9%
3%
Seining
11%
1%
0%
Other
1%
9%
7%

Adverse Effects of Asian Carp  Asian carp are becoming abundant and persistent residents of the lower reaches of the UMRS and the Illinois River. We may soon learn whether these large, prolific invaders affect other species and the environmental quality of this river system. On the basis of past experiences (e.g., with common carp), a failure to address the exotic species problem will likely result in more introductions and potential harmful effects to native biota. Monitoring by the LTRMP will be crucial for documenting forthcoming changes to our native riverine fishes because these recent Asian carp invaders are increasing in population and expanding in range.

 

This report is a product of the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program for the Upper Mississippi River System.

For further information, contact

Kevin S. Irons
Illinois Natural History Survey
LTRMP Havana Field Station
704 N. Schrader Avenue
Havana, Illinois 62644
Phone: 309-543-6000 Fax: 309-543-2105
Email: kirons@staff.uiuc.edu

Eric Ratcliff
Illinois Natural History Survey
LTRMP Pool 26 Field Station
8450 Montclair
Brighton, Illinois 62012
Phone: 618-466-9690 Fax: 618-466-9688
Email: ratcliff@inhs.uiuc.edu

U.S. Geological Survey
Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
2630 Fanta Reed Road
La Crosse, Wisconsin 54603
Phone: 608/783-7550
Fax: 608/783-8058

Project Status Reports (PSRs) are preliminary documents whose purpose is to provide information on scientific activities. Because PSRs are only subject to internal peer review, they may not be cited. Use of trade names does not imply U.S. Government endorsement of commercial products.

All Project Status Reports are accessible through the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center’s website at http://www.umesc.usgs.gov/reports_publications/psrs/umesc_psr.html

July 26, 2007

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