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Lack of Wabash dams help slow spread of Asian carp

Lack of dams along Wabash River help slow the spread of destructive Asian carp in Indiana
Posted on June 15, 2014 at 1:47 p.m.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — The lack of dams along the Wabash River keeps the current steady and strong in places and is helping to slow the spread of the Asian carp in Indiana, but state officials are still looking for ways to control the invasive species.

The Wabash River is unobstructed for nearly 400 miles, creating an environment that’s not conducive to the spread of destructive fish that take to rivers to spawn, and then return to the calm waters of a lake, said Doug Keller, a state Department of Natural Resources expert in aquatics and invasive species.

“The way our rivers are is a blessing,” Keller told the Journal & Courier (http://on.jconline.com/TZfTYK ). “I just don’t think we’re going to see the population like these dammed-up rivers.”

The Wabash River does not have a shortage of Asian carp, but they aren’t infested like the Ohio and Illinois rivers, Keller said. Still, officials are looking for ways to reduce their numbers.

Rueben Goforth, an aquatic ecologist at Purdue University, said scientists know the Asian carp’s preferred environment in the Wabash River, and knowing this, they could lay a trap.

“When the water’s low, they tend to congregate in deeper pools, which in parts of the Wabash, there aren’t too many of those,” Goforth said.

This would be the ideal time to stock the deeper pools with longnose gars, which are native species that could feed on the carp, Keller said.

Officials also have looked at toxins, but worry what those could do to native fish. Natural toxins could work if scientists could isolate a virus or bacteria lethal only to Asian carp. For example, dead Asian carp filled 32 miles of the Cumberland River in Kentucky below Barkley Dam at the end of April, said Paul Rister, fisheries district biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. But native species were unharmed by whatever killed the carp.

“I’m going to say there was easily 100,000, possibly as many as half a million, dead silver carp,” Rister said.

But officials don’t know what caused the kill.

Keller encourages fishing as a way to knock down the carp population in the Wabash, but said there aren’t enough to make commercial fishing profitable.

Keller said the federal government isn’t likely to help much more beyond what it is doing in northeastern Indiana, where it is funding the construction of a levee near Fort Wayne. That’s where the headwaters of the Wabash River sometimes mingle with the Maumee River during floods. Since the Maumee drains to Lake Erie, the intent is to block the Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller spoke up early this year when the Army Corps of Engineers proposed spending tens of millions of dollars to construct high-tech barriers along Chicago canals to safeguard the Great Lakes. Zoeller said the federal government also should provide grants to states to fund the fight against the carp.

“It’s going to take some money,” Zoeller said. “A bounty could help commercial fishing. You’re not talking about a huge investment of money. It would be appropriate to help that effort.”

Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com




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