Black Carp Biology, Status, and Selective Toxic Bait Development

Science Center Objects

Black Carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) is the largest of the four non-indigenous carp species, reaching sizes well in excess of 100 pounds. CERC scientists, in cooperation with federal and state partners, are studying the biology of black carp and developing tools to control the spread of this non-indigenous species.

Black carp

Black carp

(Public domain.)

 

Black carp engulfing a clam

Black carp engulfing a clam

(Public domain.)

The Issue: Black carps, imported into the United States during the 1980s, were used in aquaculture to control snails that host fish parasites. Black carp have large molar-like teeth that are well-adapted to crush shells. Primarily molluscivores, black carp threaten North America’s diverse but imperiled native mussel fauna.  Many remaining imperiled mussel populations are small and isolated, which increases the risk that black carp could have a substantial effect on endangered mollusks. 

 

Addressing the Issue: Currently, much of our understanding of the black carp life history, including their habitats and diet, come from fish caught and reported by commercial fishers and biologists. These sources provide valuable data on the growth, development, diet, and the gear by which black carp may be collected, but are the results of non-directed efforts. Scientists are working to developing baseline data on the biology, ecology, and current population status of black carp to effectively target the species and control their spread; as well as document captures to monitor species range. Information on the current range of black carp and reported captures are available at USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database.

Efforts were initiated in 2017 and 2018 to design a bait consisting of a toxicant in a sealed vial attached to the exterior of a mollusk prey item.  When the black carp consumes the bait, the vial is broken by the carp’s strong pharyngeal teeth, releasing a dose of piscicide. 

Carp bait

Carp bait consisting of a toxicant a sealed vial attached to the exterior of a mussel prey

(Public domain.)

 

Future Steps: Scientists will continue researching modifications to the bait to provide a lethal dose to the black carp and limit consumption by non-target fish species. Additional research will be conducted into the early life history of black carp. This project requires black carp be spawned in a bio-secure facility under controlled conditions to create a developmental series, similar to those completed for bighead carp, silver carp, and grass carp. In addition, this study will allow scientists to create a temperature based developmental model, egg sinking rates, directionality and swimming speeds of black carp larvae, and an assessment of swimming behavior comparable to work completed on the other carp species. This data will allow scientists to incorporate black carp into models (such as Fluegg), determining the potential of a river system as a spawning location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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