Spread of carp could be a 'disaster'

Fears are growing that flooding in New Orleans has caused the spread of unwanted Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and along the Mississipi river.

The region is currently battling against the invasive species which can endanger and threaten native stocks.

Duane Chapman, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist and Asian carp expert, says the fish are likely to show up in places where Mississippi floodwaters intruded. They can weigh up to 100 pounds, grow 4 feet long and live for 25 years.

They could be crowding out food sources of native species for decades.

"I think there is a very serious issue here," said Chapman. "We may now be finding them in lakes, ponds, bayous, anywhere the river water went. Those things will be full of carp now."

Asian carp is a term applied to several related species of carp that were brought to the United States in the 1970s to control algae in catfish farms in the South. Floods washed them into the Mississippi River in the 1980s.

Since their escape into the wild, the carp have established themselves in the Mississippi and Missouri river basins. They endanger native fish by greedily eating aquatic vegetation and robbing local species of their food supply.

The battle to keep them out of the Great Lakes includes the use of underwater cameras and sonar to monitor the effectiveness of the Army Corps of Engineers' electronic barriers.

The Mississippi's spring floods inundated an estimated 6.5 million acres along a 1,000-mile stretch of winding river from Cape Girardeau, Mo., to the Mississippi's mouth in Louisiana, said corps spokesman Bob Anderson.