Occurrence and Distribution of Asian Carps in Louisiana
R. Glenn Thomas, Jill A. Jenkins, and Jody David
Abstract.—In the 1970s, commercial fishers reported sightings of grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella in large rivers and associated backwaters of Louisiana; the first specimen in Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ fishery independent sampling was recorded in 1976. Beginning in the early 1980s, commercial fishers noted increasing populations of bighead carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis and silver carp H. molitrix (together, the bigheaded carps). Populations of bigheaded carps appear to be increasing at a much slower rate than in the Midwest¸ possibly due to limited suitability of and access to backwater habitat for juvenile fish. In 2002, harvester reports of sporadic captures of “different-looking” grass carp indicated the possible presence of black carp Mylopharyngodon piceus. Because both normal diploid and triploid (in which triploidy has been induced to cause sterility) black carp have been stocked in the Mississippi basin, determination of the ploidy (number of chromosome sets) of these fishes is important. Since 2002, postmortem ploidy determinations using cells from eyeballs removed from six wild black carp captured in Louisiana showed each to be a normal diploid, indicative of breeding capability and potential reproducing populations. Although reported commercial landings of grass and bigheaded carps have been as high as 34,830 kg/year, limited market demand in past years resulted in many captures being discarded. A protocol for obtaining samples for easily determining ploidy is reported here. Accurate data on Asian carp distributions and their reproductive potential provides information to fisheries researchers that will be constructive in documenting the spread of these invasive species and in the assessment of risk to habitats.