Black Carp, Mylopharyngodon piceus, are raising new concerns about non-native, invasive carp species in the Lower Mississippi River.
Unlike the four other non-native carp species found in the lower river, Black Carp, which can grow to 100 or more pounds, eat mussels and snails. They have pharyngeal teeth they use to crush mollusks and eat the meat. Dozens of species of freshwater mussels already are threatened by dams, sedimentation and poor water quality.
Scientists fear Black Carp, first detected in the region in 1994, will continue to expand their population and range and further threaten imperiled mollusks. Black Carp are already showing up in commercial fish catches along the river.
“There no reason we would not expect for these things to continue to expand in their abundance and their range,” said Jack Killgore, a fisheries biologist at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
See a video profile of Black Carp here.
Scientists now are studying spawning habits, growth rates and diets of Black Carp to determine the threat they pose. Two other non-native carp, Silver Carp and Bighead Carp, already are proliferating in the lower river – and they have been shown to cause declines in native fishes in certain waterways. Silver and Bighead carp, imported from China for use in fish farms and sewage treatment facilities, eat plankton, and important food for native fishes.
Black Carp are native to China and portions of Russia. They were brought to the United States to control snails in fish farms. Snails are hosts to a parasite that can weaken or kill farmed fish. Black Carp eventually escaped from fish farms into natural waters – like other non-native carp.
The Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee (LMRCC) is working with states and other entities to manage non-native carp populations. The LMRCC and its partners published the Lower Mississippi River Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework in 2019.