Scientist say just a few Asian carp may be big trouble for Great Lakes

Sept. 11, 2013 at 5:43 PM
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WATERLOO, Ontario, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- A very small number of Asian carp -- as few as 20 fish -- could establish a population of the invasive fish in the Great Lakes, Canadian researchers say.

Scientist as the University of Waterloo in Ontario report under some conditions the probability of Asian carp establishment soars with the introduction of just 20 fish into the Great Lakes.

"Although established Asian carp populations including the Silver and Bighead carps are widely present in the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, it's expected that it's only a matter of time before the population migrates through the many hydrological connections to the Great Lakes," researcher Kim Cuddington said.

A mature Asian carp can grow as heavy as 110 pounds, and in competition for food -- a mature carp consumes around 40 percent of its body weight daily -- and space, the Asian carp has a significant size advantage over native fish species, the researchers said.

"This species will have a huge impact on the food web," Cuddington said. "Not only is it a fast-growing fish physically, but the population itself grows very quickly. A female can lay well over a million eggs a year, and with no known predators present in the Great Lakes, the Asian carp could dominate the waters and impact fisheries."

Individual carp have already been caught in two of the Great Lakes.

The probability of Asian carp establishment changes dramatically depending on the number of the creatures present, researchers said. With 10 fish, the probability of a population of Asian carp is only 50 per cent, but with 20 fish, it jumps to 75 per cent under some conditions.

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