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Asian Carp Starting to Sound Like Comic Book Supervillains

Josh Mogerman

Posted September 22, 2013

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Carp, thankfully under glass via Jmogs at Flickr

It sounds like a shadowy comic book origin story: super-powered mutant is accidentally released onto the landscape and mayhem ensues. Sadly, what we are seeing in Midwestern rivers is real life, even though Asian carp are really starting to sound like super-powered baddies. We already knew they flew (well, OK, jumped really high) and have proved to be crazily illusive (you can’t really catch them with typical fishing gear).

But they seem to be getting stronger still. They are adapting to our rivers. And developing new tricks to surprise researchers. Check out this horrifying passage grabbed by the AP from the Lauri Keagle at the Times of Indiana’s coverage of a recent public meeting:

Reuben Goforth, assistant professor of aquatic community ecology at Purdue University, has been studying Asian carp in Indiana's Wabash River and found the fish are far more adaptive than previously thought.

Goforth said he and his team have discovered the gills are changing on some species of Asian carp in the Wabash, making them stronger and an even greater threat to the river's native species.

"They are not tied to specific water levels like we thought they were," Goforth told The Times in Munster ( ). "They are not tied to spawning at a particular time of year like we thought they were."

Goforth said in collecting data on Asian carp eggs, the most students had found in a five-minute net collection was 1,000.

But in June, they found 300,000 eggs in three minutes. Anglers reported seeing a 3/4-mile stretch from bank to bank jammed with Asian carp spawning at the same time.

"We'd never seen anything like this before," he said.

Goforth said the adaptations remind him of the "Jurassic Park" line, "Life finds a way," from Michael Crichton's novel and Steven Spielberg's film.

"Fish are doing things here that they haven't in their native distribution, which frankly scares me," Goforth said.

This follows the quiet announcement that spawning groups of the fish have moved upriver about 100 miles closer to the electric barrier which stands as the last defense keeping the carp out of the Great Lakes via the Chicago Area Waterways System. Of course, that points to yet another superpower we learned about a while back—little baby fishies can withstand the assault from the electric barrier and swim through due to their smaller surface area, though the Army Corps of Engineers says that an increase in voltage has dealt with the problem. Let’s hope so, because I don’t see any superheroes on the horizon who can swoop in and win this fight if the authorities dither.

Carp, Thankfully Under Glass 1 image by jmogs via Flickr.

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Michael BerndtsonSep 23 2013 10:37 AM

Besides creeping charlie, cockroaches and rats, when haven't humans not been able to wipe out an entire species?

Seriously, we'll probably spend billions to keep these things out of Lake Michigan. They'll get in. Even if they have to walk along the Stevenson. My guess is that Mrs. Paul and her frozen fish empire is in cahoots with Goldman Sachs and the industrial fish farms to control the reconstituted fish pieces market. Asian carp is like wind and solar power - infinite feed stock. So not of any interest to commodity traders and producers.

Tom MatychSep 30 2013 06:22 AM

We have native predators for juvenile asian carp. However they are also predators of alewives that are protected in Lake Michigan. Alewives eat the same zooplankton that we don't want asian carp to eat. They fail to mention that part!

Josh MogermanSep 30 2013 11:07 AM


Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. The problem is that LOTS of species eat the zooplankton that Asian carp eat. Its the base of the food web, but the invasive species eats a disproportionate amount of the stuff when they get settled into a new environment, crowding the native species out. The problem is already in play in the Great Lakes where invasive quagga and zebra mussels have been literally sucking the life out of Lake Michigan by decimating those microscopic critters--the last thing needed is to have Asian carp join and exasperate that mess.

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