While fish such as bass and blue gill are welcome in Kentucky’s waters, Asian carp, which are now grouped with a larger group of fish species known as invasive carp, have had a devastating effect on the state’s economy, state lawmakers heard Thursday.
The Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture received updates from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources about efforts to manage invasive carp in the state’s waterways. They told the committee that the four species of invasive carp, bighead carp, silver carp, grass carp and black carp, came from private ponds in Arkansas. The ponds flooded, allowing the fish to spread to tributaries and into Kentucky. They said although the situation is improving, it’s vital to maintain momentum.
“We are not where we were three years ago, and I think we’re well down the road to addressing this situation,” said Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Rich Storm.
State, federal and private partners have worked with the department since 2010 to obtain federal funds for battling invasive carp. Increased funding has allowed wildlife authorities to establish carp crews in Frankfort and Murray. The crews monitor their populations and assess their impacts on native species, along with other tasks.
Director of Fisheries Dave Dreves said efforts to completely eradicate invasive carp won’t happen soon. “So what we can do is we can slow their expansion into new waters, and we can try to put together programs and amend regulations to try to assist the commercial fishermen to fish these populations down where they are present,” he said.
Efforts include an 8-cent per pound federal subsidy on invasive carp harvested from Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.
“Since 2013, we have harvested 50 million pounds or so. I’m estimating we’ve probably got about five million pounds harvested this year so far,” Dreves said.
Wildlife authorities are also deploying bio-acoustic fish fences, which use sound and bubbles to create a barrier. Storm said more of them are needed.
Committee co-chair, Sen. Jason Howell, R-Murray, stated invasive carp are more of a threat than people realize.
“This is a completely different animal literally and figuratively, and the impact that it has on the areas that get affected is devastating. That sounds dramatic, but it’s not. The economic impact to our area in this already has been problematic, and it could get a lot worse if we don’t take these steps.”