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Invasive Species: Black Carp

Invasive species have the potential to completely flip an ecosystem upside down. In our mind the water bodies in Ontario are our crown jewel and we want to do our part to ensure they remain a prized resource.


Todays invasive species is Black Carp!


We will cover why they are a threat to the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes, why anglers play an important role in monitoring for them, and what they can do to help stop the spread!


Have you heard of the Black Carp? Although much less known than the other species of Asian Carp the Black Carp is not one to ignore. It's difference in appearance can make it more difficult to identify by the average person and looks very similar to creek chub in dark waters at small sizes!

black carp ontario invasive species risk asian carp

History & Biology

Black Carp, or Mylopharyngodon piceus, are native to the large rivers and lakes in eastern Asia from southern Russia to southern China and Vietnam. These fish were introduced to the Southern U.S. in the 1960's for use as biological control in aquaculture facilities. Flooding events allowed this species to escape and make their way into the Mississippi River Basin. Young Black Carp primarily feed on zooplankton and later on insect larvae and detritus. Adult Black Carp feed primarily on mollusks, such as mussels and snails, using their pharyngeal (throat) teeth to crush the shells. They also eat freshwater shrimp, crawfish, and insects.Black Carp can reach maturity in 4 to 6 years. They can typically grow to more than 3 feet in length and weigh, on average, 33 lbs. The fish can a maximum of up to 6 feet in length and weigh up to 200 lbs.


Identification

Black Carp are elongated, laterally compressed and have a pointed head with flattened anterior portion and small toothless mouth. Their body is brown to black in colour, and bluish-gray to white on the belly, with a keel from the pelvic fins to the anal fin. The fins are darker brownish-black or black with lighter hues at the base, and large overlapping scales have dark edges giving a cross-hatched appearance.


Habitat

Black Carp prefer habitats in the lower reaches of rivers and lakes with spawning occurring in areas of high turbulence. Currently, Black Carp are found throughout the Mississippi River. There is an electric dispersal barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal within the Chicago Area Waterway, which is the largest known continuous connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. These barriers are designed to prevent fish migration between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basin. Equipment generates a direct current pulse through the electrodes, creating an electric field in the water that discourages the fishes from crossing. The design does not prevent waterway vessel traffic. Black Carp are not as far up the river basin as Silver Carp and Bighead Carp.


Impact To Great Lakes

At all life stages, Black Carp will compete for food with native species. In addition to decimating native mussel populations, this species can also negatively impact native fish, turtles, birds, raccoons, otters, and muskrats, through competition for food. A single Black Carp could eat up to 20,000 lbs of food in its lifetime. This is a threat to native mussel and snail populations. Freshwater mussels in Ontario are already under stress and facing decline in numbers. Although molluscivores, Black Carp will not eat Zebra and Quagga mussels due to their small mouths and lack of jaw-teeth. Black Carp would compete for food and could have negative impacts on native populations of:

Fishes

Turtles

Birds

Raccoons

Otters

Muskrats


The introduction of Black Carp into Canadian waters would pose a threat to native species and overall biodiversity.

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