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Entries in carp (9)


You Think Asian Carp Are a Problem? Look at What the Feds Almost Put in Our Waters

If you think that we’ve made a mess of our lands and waters through intentional and unintentional import of exotic plants and animals, you are correct. For example, we now spend billions of dollars annually to control and mitigate the damage done by just four recently introduced species: bighead carp, silver carp, quagga mussel, and zebra mussel.

And in attempts to minimize problems, the government often has made them worse. During the 1940s, the state of Louisiana touted the South American nutria as a way to control water hyacinth, a fast-growing exotic that was crowding out native vegetation in wetlands. Today, the nutria is eating away those same wetlands, contributing to saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion.

In the early 1960s, the states of Alabama and Arkansas allowed import of grass carp to control aquatic vegetation in aquaculture ponds. By 1970, escapees had established populations in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Today, these troublesome grazers are established in at least nine states and have been sighted in more than 40. Ask just about any bass angler, and he will tell you that the grass carp is public enemy No. 1.

And speaking of carp, we have the federal government to thank for one of the worst management decisions ever in regard to our fisheries. In 1877, the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries began intensively cultivating and stocking common carp. In fairness, it was prompted to do so both by public pressure and by overharvest of native fish stocks. By the turn of the century, however, it already was regarded as a nuisance.

“Moreover, their rapid spread appeared to threaten both water quality and native species, as commissioners nationwide noted a deterioration of formerly clear and fertile lakes and waterways upon the arrival of carp,” says the National Park Service.

But you don’t know the half of it. Actually, things could be worse. Much worse. Instead of nutria eating away those Louisiana wetlands, we could have hippos. And who’s to say that these massive “water horses” which can weigh up to 4 tons and eat up to 100 pounds of vegetation a day, wouldn’t have spread east, west, and north?

They are “relatively tolerant of cold conditions,” says the Glen Oak Zoo, which also points out that “many individuals live to 40 years.”

Oh yeah, they also are generally believed to have killed more people in their native Africa than another animal, including lions and crocodiles.

All things considered, I’ll take the nutria, thank you. It tops out at about 12 pounds and is not as likely to charge me at the launch ramp.

But in 1910, Frederick Russell Burnham, a famed American scout and world adventurer, proposed replacing our nation’s depleted wildlife population --- we had hunted deer, turkey, and buffalo nearly to extinction --- with animals that he had encountered in southern Africa.

His proposal lined up nicely with the search for a solution to the growing problem of water hyacinths in Louisiana waters, as well as America’s need for more meat. Writing about this little known piece of American history, Jon Mooallem in American Hippopotamus, says that Rep. of Robert Foligny of New Iberia “liked to plug up problems with big solutions.”

Thus, Foligny introduced H.R. 23261, also known as the “Hippo Bill,” to “appropriate $250,000 for the importation of useful new animals into the United States.” The Washington Post assured readers that they would see shipments of hippos within a few years.

Fortunately for all us, a boatload of hippos never docked in New Orleans. But it wasn’t because of the unexpected discovery of good judgment in Congress. Rather, one representative said that the beasts should not be introduced because unscrupulous hunters would sneak onto the farms and hunt them for trophies.

Yeah, that’s the reason not to import aggressive animals that boast 20-inch teeth and can run at speeds of more than 20 miles per hour.

What turned the tide, though, was that the Department of Agriculture decided to transform swamps and other undeveloped areas into agricultural land to grow more beef cattle.

Thank goodness. Otherwise, we might we watching “Hippo Die-Nasty” instead of “Duck Dynasty” on television.


Alligator Gar Plentiful in Falcon Lake

Garzilla Guide Service gar caught on Trinity River

For those who want to catch alligator gar these days, Texas’ Trinity River usually is the preferred destination.  But the Rio Grande and Falcon Lake, an impoundment between Laredo and McAllen, also contain plenty of the nation’s second –largest freshwater fish. (Sturgeon top the list.)

"There are some huge --- I mean really huge, world-record-class - alligator gar in Falcon," said Dave Terre, chief of fisheries management and research for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's inland fisheries division.

"What's really cool is that some of the data collected in this study has never been collected before in Texas. It adds so much to our knowledge base for this fish."

According to the Houston Chronicle, the study documents that those border waters afford some of the best in Texas for trophy alligator gar, fish stretching to 7 feet and longer and weighing 200 pounds or more.

A primary reason for the study was to determine if the large predators pose a threat to the lake’s renowned trophy bass fishery. Examination of the stomach contents of nearly 400 gar revealed that almost 90 percent of their diet is carp, tilapia, and gizzard shad. Bass accounted for just 8 percent of the stomach contents.

With plentiful forage and a warm climate, those gar grow large fast. Females reach 5 feet in five years and sexual maturity in seven, about half the time needed in more northern waters.

But the harvest rate is low, with anglers taking just 1 percent of the population annually. That’s partially because the daily limit is one.

With plenty of fish and little harvest, Texas Parks and Wildlife wants to allow anglers on Falcon to take as many as five alligator gar per day.

"We think this proposed bag limit is supported by the science presented in this study, is sufficient to conserve this population long into the future, and it meets the needs and desires expressed by our constituents," Terre said.


Carp Kisser!

Are those the lips that you’d like to smooch? What if their owner wanted to kiss you?

That’s the situation that a yellow lab found itself in at Lake Mead.

Check it out.


Everglades Devastation a Warning for Fisheries?

Python swallowing an alligator.

Pythons are wiping out wildlife in the Florida Everglades.

Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Tampa Bay Times:

“In a report published Monday, a team of scientists said they found that between 2003 and 2011, the areas where pythons had proliferated saw a 99 percent decrease in raccoons, a 98 percent drop in opossums, a 94 percent drop in white-tailed deer and an 87 percent falloff for bobcats. And that's not the worst of it.

“‘We observed no rabbits or foxes,’ the report noted.

“The bottom line: ‘In areas where pythons have been established the longest … mammal populations appear to have been severely reduced.’"

Of course, pythons are an exotic species that should not be in the Everglades. They are present because of the federal government’s failure to competently regulate the exotic pet industry.

Just add water and you get an idea of what could happen to our fish and other aquatic species because of exotic carp, snakeheads, gobies, and other invaders.

Granted, the snakehead is the only top-level aquatic predator so far --- as is the python on land --- but exotics can wipe out natives through means other than eating them. They can take over habitat and gobble up all of the food. They can introduce disease. In rare cases, they even can interbreed, weakening the genetic integrity of natives.

The truth is that established populations of invasives can have consequences that we can’t even contemplate until it’s already too late.  


Exotic Species Threat 'Celebrated' in Song

Just before Christmas, some invasive species experts wrote their own version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

As reported by the Journal Sentinel, here’s a portion of the song intended to increase awareness about exotic species and the problems that they create:

"On the 12th day of Christmas, a freighter sent to me,

"Twelve quaggas clogging: Quagga mussels, which can tolerate colder water than zebra mussels as well as colonize soft substrates, are now the dominant invasive mussel in Lake Michigan. Just like zebra mussels, quagga mussels are quite effective at clogging water intake pipes and other infrastructure. Mitigating these impacts has cost Great Lakes residents millions of dollars.

"Eleven gobies gobbling: Round gobies are very effective egg predators. Their advanced lateral line system (a series of fish sensory organs) allows them to find eggs that native egg predators are unable to.

"Ten alewives croaking: Until the introduction of Pacific salmon, alewives died off in such great numbers that tractors were required to remove them from Lake Michigan beaches. Salmon now do a great job controlling alewife numbers, but there are still alewife die-offs due to spawning-related stresses.

"Nine eggs in resting: The spiny waterflea and the fishhook waterflea produce tiny resting eggs that can survive long after the mature waterflea has perished. The resting eggs also can survive extreme environmental conditions, so it is imperative to make sure recreational equipment is cleaned to prevent spreading these invasive crustaceans.

"Eight shrimp 'a swarming: The bloody red shrimp, Hemimysis anomala, is one of the Great Lakes' most recently discovered ballast invaders. The effects on the Great Lakes are largely unknown, but the shrimp may compete for food with young fish and have been found in the diet of some fish in the Great Lakes.

"Seven carp and counting: There are seven species of invasive carp in the United States. There are the four collectively known as Asian carp (black, grass, silver and bighead), the common carp, the crucian carp, and last but not least, the Prussian carp (aka the goldfish). While the current focus is on the silver and bighead carp, all of these carp cause problems one way or another. Hopefully, we won't actually be counting any other carp species soon.

"Six lamprey leaping: This is actually some bad lamprey biology humor. Lampreys are poor jumpers, especially when compared with trout and salmon, so a small low-head obstacle or ledge can prevent lampreys from moving farther upstream while other fish leap over the obstacle. Thus, physical barriers or one-way managers are preventing lampreys from invading more streams in the Great Lakes basin.