Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/24/2009
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Numerous natural resource agency and media reports have alleged that Asian carps were introduced into the wild through escapes from commercial fish farms. This chapter traces the chronology associated with introductions of Asian carps and discusses the likeliest pathways of their introduction to the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first introduced an Asian carp species, grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella, in 1963. Since then, state and federal agencies, universities, and private fish farmers have interacted to introduce Asian carps, to develop production technologies, and to promote their use in both public and private sectors in a number of different states. These introductions were purposeful and legal. Asian carps were introduced to take advantage of their unique food preferences (planktivory by silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and bighead carp H. nobilis, herbivory of grass carp, and molluscivory by black carp Mylopharyngodon piceus). The first accidental release of diploid grass carp was in 1966 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Other early reports of grass carp in the wild were from waters in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Grass carp were reported from the wild in 1970, two years before the first private hatchery received grass carp. By 1972, grass carp had been stocked in open water systems in 16 different states. Silver carp and bighead carp were first imported purposely by a commercial fish producer in Arkansas in 1973. All fish were transferred to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) by March 1974 where they first successfully spawned silver carp and bighead carp later that year. The first report of silver carp in the wild was in Arizona in 1972, although strong evidence suggests this may have been a misidentification, followed by reports in Arkansas in the wild in 1975. The Arkansas report occurred two years before bighead carp and silver carp were returned to private hatcheries for commercial production. By 1977, silver carp and bighead carp had been introduced to Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, and Tennessee. Research and stockings of silver carp and bighead carp were conducted by at least six state and federal agencies and three universities in seven states in the 1970s and 1980s. Public-sector agencies, which were successful in encouraging development and use of Asian carps that today are in commercial trade, are the likeliest pathways for the earliest escapes of grass carp, silver carp, and bighead carp.