NATIONAL (WEHT) – Black carp, which are an invasive fish species in North America, are now known to be established in the wild in parts of the Mississippi River basin. 

A new study is the first to identify an established population—meaning they are naturally reproducing and living to adulthood— of wild black carp in any location across the U.S.

Officials say black carp can grow quickly and reach more than 3 feet long. A news release says black carp prey on species such as snails and mussels and pose a risk to native mussels in this region. Officials say mussels support ecosystem health by improving water quality—they filter out bacteria, algae and pollutants as they breathe and feed—and provide food and nutrition for other species.

The press release says black carp, which are native to east Asia, were first brought into the country to control snails in fish farms. Officials say snails are hosts of parasites that can harm channel catfish, hybrid striped bass and other fish that are important human food sources and support the regional economy. A news release says the use of black carp in these types of aquatic environments is regulated and requires permits, and there isn’t a clear understanding on how black carp escaped.

“When an invasive species becomes established, eradication can be difficult, but it can also be challenging to collect robust information during the onset and early stages when abundance is typically low,” said Gregory Whitledge, a professor with the Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences at Southern Illinois University and the lead author of the study. “This research includes the largest sample size and is the most robust analysis of wild black carp in the Mississippi River basin, helping inform those making decisions to curtail further expansion.”

When a black carp is captured in the wild, it can be reported to the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database.