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Flying Fish

2008 July 8

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About the author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation scientist with EPA who started in 1998. He serves as Chief of the Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Branch in Kansas City.

Ever heard of a guy named Lew Zealand? He was the Muppet that threw boomerang fish (I expect a cut of your winnings if you ever go on Jeopardy and this bit of trivia pays off). I thought of Lew because it is field season again and on the Missouri River we have our own airborne fish. They are Asian Carp, a particularly troubling invasive species that have infested waters and pose a potentially devastating effect to the Great Lakes. They were introduced into the catfish aquaculture business in the 1970s but during floods these “prisoners” escaped their ponds into the Mississippi River, and have been on the run ever since. YouTube has a lot of great videos of them in action.

In Region 7 we administer our Regional Ambient Fish Tissue (RAFT) program where samples are analyzed for contaminants such as mercury, pesticides, and PCBs. States use the data to post fish advisories. Our biologists (including Lorenzo pictured here) end up with nets full of carp because they often are the most abundant fish in the Missouri River. If you talk to some of the old timers fishing along the banks they will tell you the odd-looking paddlefish were more abundant in years past. Paddlefish face many challenges from human-induced changes to the river such as dams, loss of habitat due to channel straightening, and illegal harvest of eggs for use as caviar. Now they count flying fish as enemies since the more abundant carp out-compete the paddlefish for food.

Photo of Lorenzo holding large Asian Carp near waterAs comical as the spectacle of jumping fish may be, invasive species are a serious threat. A plant may look pretty and an animal may seem cute, yet they may wreak devastating damage when introduced into a non-native setting. In 1884 a single Australian released twenty-four European rabbits on his property for hunting purposes. Within ten years those 24 had turned into over 2 million, and started the delicate ecology of Australia into a downward spiral causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage each year and bringing a $30,000 fine for anyone found harboring their own long-eared friend as a pet. For those outdoor enthusiasts among you, consider scanning your State Conservation Department’s website before you head out on vacation this summer. Find out what you can do to make sure you don’t unknowingly take home a hidden hitchhiker.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Dr.Eng. Amjad Mourad agha university of Aleppo Syria permalink
    July 14, 2008

    We are in Aleppo Syria we do not need to have a botled water
    because we used OZONe System , we have the Alphrat river as water resources

  2. Tony Ward permalink
    August 11, 2008

    Thank you for a very interesting and thought provoking article. My interest is in trout fishing and if it is OK to put a link here, I came across a new blog trout lures
    which updates fishing reports for all areas of the US which gives interesting fish stock and environmental feedback.

  3. George permalink
    December 9, 2008

    Good post. There are great problems with invasive fish in the Great lakes I understand.

    Land For Sale

  4. Ryan Oliver permalink
    September 12, 2010

    Paddlefish seem like a very interesting species of fish. I did not know that carp competed with them for food. I think it’s great that you are checking these fish and administering health advisories based on your findings. What a great way to help other people!

    Thanks for this interesting information.

    Ryan Oliver

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