In Kentucky, wildlife officials are in the middle of a massive fish roundup on Kentucky Lake. It’s the latest in a 15-year battle to halt the spread of invasive Asian carp. State and federal officials are using the latest technology to force the carp into large nets spread throughout the lake. In the U.S., roughly $607 million has been spent to stop them since 2004, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.
“The USGS, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, couple of state agencies, Mississippi, Tennessee, of course, our folks, Kentucky, are all working together to do a mass harvest of Asian carp,” said Ron Brooks, Kentucky’s aquatic nuisance species program director. The carp threaten to upend aquatic ecosystems, starve out native fish, and wipe out mussel and snail populations. And they are on the move. “And as they became overpopulated, they keep moving to find more food,” said Brooks.
Kentucky has been using various methods to harvest the fish, including electrofishing. But the fish are also a nuisance to the state’s tourist industry. “Silver carp in particular jump like crazy,” said Brooks. “And I can guarantee you when they jump in to a person’s boat, whether it’s a pontoon boat or a pleasure boat or a high, very expensive fishing boat, they can do a lot of damage.” The current method being used on Kentucky Lake is to use underwater loudspeakers and electricity to corral Asian carps into nets.
“Asian carp are very sensitive to sound,” said Brooks. “And so they are using MP3 players with noises like elevator doors slamming, motor sounds are amplified. And so they are using those kind of noises to push these fish.” The entire roundup will take several more days to complete, but Brooks believes that this effort, combined with commercial fishing for Asian carp, will help reduce their numbers. About an hour away, a fish processing plant in Kentucky is trying to change the reputation of Asian carp in the United States. Millions of pounds of Asian carp, mostly from Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, come through Two Rivers Fisheries annually.
“Our mission is to reduce, reuse and redefine Asian carp,” said Angie Yu, president of Two Rivers Fisheries. Asian carp is widely consumed in China and Yu exports the carp to customers in Europe and the Middle East. But she’s also trying to grow the market for U.S. consumers. “So mainly we will have fish head, fish bodies, swim bladders, to the Asian market,” said Yu. “But we also develop some fish patties, dumplings, fish egg rolls, fish cakes and tacos. This is for the Caucasian market.”