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Asian Carp Still A Threat Despite Fish Kills

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Hundreds of Asian carp, including silver carp, which fly through the air when they're spooked, were found belly up earlier this year. And now fisheries experts are wondering what exactly caused the large fish kills along the Missouri River.


“Twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week, they swim around with that mouth open, pumping water through and filtering out plankton,” said Fisheries Biologist Sam Stukel.


When you think about Asian carp, you usually think of boaters being hit by a jumping fish. But, there are actually three types of Asian carp in South Dakota, and only the silver carp jumps from the water. The others are the big head carp and the grass carp. All are invasive to South Dakota. Earlier this year, hundreds of them mysteriously died.


“What caused that? We weren't able to determine,” said Stukel.


Fisheries experts can speculate but without a living sample of a diseased fish, there’s no way to know what killed them.


“There's a chance it was some sort of bacteria virus that specifically attack this species of fish,” said Stukel. “Any time the Asian carp are dying it’s not all bad, as long as what is killing them doesn't eventually affect our other fish.”


Despite a couple of fish kills earlier this year the Asian carp’s numbers are very strong. And they're taking their toll on endangered species.


“One of the rarest animals alive right there,” said Stukel. “This is the endangered pallid sturgeon. It’s one of the most endangered species alive, on the face of the earth, today.”


“They have enough problems. They don't need this aquatic vacuum cleaner from Asia coming and taking their food,” added Stukel.


Even with hundreds of Asian carp dying off earlier this year, the invaders from half a world away are not going anywhere soon.  


“Just today, boating on the river, we saw a hundred or more silver carp. They're still doing just fine,” said Stukel.


So, fisheries experts are asking for the public’s help.


“If you see a large number of dead Asian carp like we had last May, call that in,” asked Stukel.  


For now, Stukel and his crew, keep monitoring the river, looking for a way to stop the spread of the Asian carp.


Experts say this is a big year for silver carp. A lot of them are 3 years old and could start to spawn. 

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