Environment
3:08 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Estimates Put Asian Carp Fish Kill Near 500,000 on Cumberland River

Remnants of the nearly 500,000 dead Asian carp floating below Barkley Dam.
Remnants of the nearly 500,000 dead Asian carp floating below Barkley Dam.
Credit Paul Rister (KDFWR)

Scientists are studying the cause of a massive fish kill in western Kentucky, which state wildlife officials are saying is the largest kill of its kind recorded.   

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources reports around 500,000 Asian carp died within a 24-hour period Wednesday on the Cumberland River just below Lake Barkley. KDFWR Fisheries Biologist Paul Rister says soon after discovering the kill fisherman were still catching fish,

“One group of gentlemen had just pulled in their limit of white bass,” Rister said.

The impact on just Asian carp has biologists and a state aquaculture specialist flummoxed.  Bob Durborow is an Aquaculture Specialist at Kentucky State University and has 30 years of experience, He says he hasn't seen anything of this magnitude before. Durborow is testing specimens he received on Thursday.

“You know, they were of course dead,” he said of the specimens. “But, they appeared live. Their eyes looked like they were live their gills looked they were from live fish they were a good specimen to check. So, I feel confident that what we find from these fish might give us an indication of what is actually the problem.”

Durborow thinks a lack of oxygen may be the cause of the fish kill but he’s investigating the possibility of parasites bacteria and viruses. But Kentucky Fisheries Director Ron Brooks disagrees.

He says there’s always plenty of oxygen in the water this time of year. He also says the Barkley Dam wasn’t spilling water to create excess oxygen.  He’s thinking there could be a virus or bacteria to blame.

“There is a brain pathogen that has been found in Asian carp in previous smaller kills it is called Lactococcosis possibly it could be that and that is what we’re going to be looking for in more fish we got to the labs,” Brooks said.

Durborow anticipates have all test results in a month’s time.

Asian Carp are invasive, fecund and troublesome to game fish. If scientists find the source of the kill then it could prove to be helpful to those battling the fish.

“It’d be nice for them to be able to isolate that and create a biological bullet to combat Asian Carp,” Brooks said.

But, that could spell trouble to some businesses that are trying to capitalize on the rapidly expanding Asian carp population.

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