Holy Carp

Or, is that “Oh crap”.

Carp

Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca

Wildlife officials are activating an emergency plan after two fishermen hauled a massive Asian grass carp out of the St. Lawrence River.

The catch was a shock to the fisherman and biologists. The 29-kilogram specimen of the invasive species known for its super-sized appetite is believed to be the first one found in the river.

Wildlife experts warn the Asian carp’s voracious intake of plankton and underwater vegetation could choke out Canada’s native fish species by eliminating their food supply. The foreign fish have already replaced native species in the Mississippi River, and make up more than 50 per cent of fish by weight in parts of the Illinois River.

Quebec’s Forests, Wildlife and Parks Ministry will spend $1.7 million over three years to detect the carp and to educate commercial fishers.

Asian carp were introduced to North America in the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, they’ve migrated north through U.S. waterways and into the Great Lakes. Asian carp typically weigh between two and four kilograms, but can reach up to 40 kilograms and up to a meter in length. They reproduce rapidly, and once grown, can eat up to 20 per cent of the body weight in plankton each day.

Last summer, nine grass carps were found in the Toronto-area and some were found in Lake Erie. Teams of wildlife officials were deployed in Ontario to search for more as part of the province’s response plan.

Officials in Quebec are analysing samples of the carp to determine how long it has been swimming in the St. Lawrence, and if it could have migrated from the Great Lakes.

“I think it’s more likely it was introduced to the St. Lawrence originally either as an adult fish or that was in a bait bucked, a small fish that was mistaken for a minnow,” said Anthony Ricciardi, an invasive species biologist at McGill University.

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