• Outdoors Outdoors

Officials urge people to catch and eat fish species invading waters and threatening property values: 'The biggest threat to our ecosystem'

Commercial fishing is "the most practical method to reduce the abundance of invasive carp."

Commercial fishing is "the most practical method to reduce the abundance of invasive carp."

Photo Credit: iStock

Invasive carp in Tennessee are causing officials to turn to various methods to slow their spread.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency suggested people eat the fish. It is also working on labeling standards, which would indicate that purchasing the fish helps conserve natural resources, to make the product more attractive to consumers.

There are government subsidies, sonic transmitters, sound barriers, and more dedicated to keeping the carp from taking over the Volunteer State's waters.

The problem goes back decades. Carp from the Yangtze and Amur River systems in China were brought to the United States in the 1970s, and they spread from aquaculture ponds during flooding around the Mississippi River Delta in the 1980s and 1990s, per the TWRA.

There are four kinds of carp in Tennessee: silver, bighead, black, and grass. The invasive species affect the ecosystem, fishing industry, recreation, and even potentially home prices.

Just like other invasives, carp outcompete native species for food sources and space, and some can grow to 100 pounds. The silver carp can injure boaters, as they leap as high as 8 feet out of the water. This is particularly dangerous if they've reached their maximum weight of 60 pounds.

The TWRA says commercial fishing is "the most practical method to reduce the abundance of invasive carp in Tennessee waters" and could remove millions of pounds of the fish each year.

An incentive program for wholesale fish dealers and commercial fishers has led to 30.5 million pounds of carp being caught since its inception in 2018, and a 12-hour bowfishing tournament that year netted 17,000 pounds of carp.

The U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are studying how underwater sound can prevent carp from traveling upstream via locks; less-sensitive native fish could continue to do so. This effort was incorporated with the TWRA and other state agencies' sonic tagging and tracking work, which could also help contain the fish.

One teen is doing what he can to spread the word with a yearslong awareness campaign about the silver carp. For his efforts, Trace Nystrom was named Tennessee Wildlife Federation Youth Conservationist of the Year.

"The biggest threat to our ecosystem here in East Tennessee is the invasive carp that are currently in Middle Tennessee and working their way up the Tennessee River," he told WBIR Channel 10. "If the Asian carp were able to spread all the way up into the Tennessee River up here, the property values on the lake … would shoot down."

His goal is to keep the carp, which are plentiful in the Mississippi River and Middle Tennessee, out of East Tennessee.

"I don't think I'll be proud until 10 years down the road from now, there are still no invasive carp here in Fort Loudoun Lake," he said.

"... Stop reproducing, stop swimming. We need y'all to go belly up, man. We've had enough of you."

Join our free newsletter for cool news and cool tips that make it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider