WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The Asian carp invasion is growing in the Lafayette, Indiana area, but what impact will it have on the Wabash and other local waters?
Purdue University Assistant Professor of Aquatic Community Ecology Reuben Goforth is concerned the Asian carp invasion in the Wabash could mirror other parts of the Midwest.
"My fear is that we're going to eventually see in the Wabash River what has already occurred in the Illinois River," Goforth said, referring to the waterway most thought of when Asian carp are mentioned.
There is reason for concern. Goforth said the time to take action in the Wabash is now.
"The battle ground is increasing here I guess I would say," Goforth said.
Goforth usually studies shovelnose sturgeon in the Wabash, but recent events have turned his attention to the Asian carp.
"I have been contacted by both Federal and state agencies that are seeking help to try to do studies on these fish to better understand their ecology, their behavior, so that we can come up with some useful ways to try to control them," he said.
Goforth said silver and bighead carp are plankton eaters that can grow fast and large thanks to the fertile waters of the Wabash.
"These fish can get up to 70, 80, even 100 pounds and three to four feet in length," he said.
And their voracious appetites could lead to a decline in food for native fish, which could disrupt the balance of the food chain.
"They're straining small plants and animals out of the water column that basically serve as the food base for this ecosystem. There are native fish in this river that depend on that food as a resource," Goforth said.
Goforth said fish like gizzard shad and skipjack herring serve as food for larger predator fish like catfish, bass, and walleye, but he says it is hard to tell if the competition with Asian carp has already had a negative effect like it has in other waters like the Illinois River.
"What that trajectory will mean at this point is difficult to predict, but it could eventually have a pretty big impact on the overall fish community of the Wabash River," he said.
Goforth said research will help answer some of these questions, but hopes it is not too late to turn back these invaders.
"Hopefully the snowball hasn't gotten too big yet," he said.
Tomorrow we'll tell you what is being done to try to stop the Asian carp migration, and how another Purdue researcher is working to see how these fish can be utilized for their meat.
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