Invasive Carp Making Way To Allegheny, Mon Rivers, Threaten
22 December 2016
By Mary Ann Thomas
Decimating native fish populations and jumping up to 3 feet out
the water en masse, Asian carp are working their way toward the
Allegheny and Monongahela rivers and state environmental agencies
are bracing for the onslaught.
Two species of the invasive carp — silver and bighead — can make
their way to the Pittsburgh area via the Ohio River within the
next 10 years, according to experts.
A monster of a fish, the carp can weigh up to 40 pounds.
Recently, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission combed the
river bottom for Asian carp in prospective wintering grounds in
the Allegheny River near Harmar and the Montgomery pool of the
Ohio River, five miles down river from Beaver.
They came up empty — this time.
Although, the fish isn't officially in the state, its DNA has been
found in the Montgomery pool and a small population was eradicated
from a pay-to-fish lake in Eighty Four this year, according to
Rick Lorson, area fisheries manager for the Pennsylvania Fish and
Bighead carp have been found as close as the Wheeling area near
the Pennsylvania state line and the silver carp in Eureka, Ohio,
about 240 miles from the state line, according to U.S. Fish and
“There is a reasonable likelihood they will be in Pennsylvania,”
Lorson said. “Once they enter our waters, we will work to
Currently, Asian carp are found in at least 1,000 miles of inland
waterways in about 20 states along the Mississippi, Ohio and
Missouri rivers, according to Charlie Wooley, deputy regional
director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Minneapolis,
In just the past year, the silver carp expanded 64 miles
upstream in the Ohio River from Wheelersburg, Ohio, to Eureka,
“It's a bit disconcerting but not unexpected,” Wooley said.
In waters where they dominate, the silver carp have made a splash,
literally, jumping as high as 3 feet out of the water when scared
by boats. The fish pose a danger to boaters and others on the
water when large schools erupt out of the water, hitting boaters
and landing in their vessels, as illustrated in numerous YouTube
But that's the least of their offenses.
Asian carp can devour food supplies and take over the habitat of
native fish. The worst cases have been in the middle of the
Illinois River, according to Wooley, where Asian carp have
outcompeted native commercial and sports fish 10 to one.
If the invasive carp takes hold of the Great Lakes, it could
threaten the $7 billion sport and commercial fisheries, impacting
thousands of jobs, he said.
It's unknown how much damage the carp could inflict on the three
rivers in the Pittsburgh area and beyond.
“It doesn't take much to draw a conclusion that these large fish
can be abundant when the food resources are there and they could
out-compete our native fish that feed in the same way,” said
Charles Bier, senior director of conservation science at the
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and a member of the state's
Invasive Species Council.
The slack, slow water in the lower Allegheny between the locks and
dams might prove attractive for spawning carp, Wooley and Lorson
Lorson estimates that if the carp became established, they could
reduce local fish populations by 30 to 50 percent.
Perhaps the greatest ecological loss to the voracious fish's
appetite would be damage to the wild Allegheny River beyond the
last lock and dam in Madison Township, Armstrong County.
Over the years, Bier and the conservancy have documented federally
endangered mussels in that part of the river with populations that
can be found no other place in the world.
Marked For Extermination
Before the carp could reach the wild Allegheny though, Lorson
assured there would be an all-out effort to eradicate them.
Electric current barriers installed by the Army Corps of Engineers
near Romeoville, Ill., in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal have
stopped the carp from heading into the Great Lakes, Wooley said.
Throughout this summer, commercial fisherman 30 miles south of the
electrical barriers corralled thousands of Asian carp in nets,
pulling in more than 1 million pounds of fish, Wooley said.
Exactly how Pennsylvania officials would attack Asian carp that
reach state waters won't be known until the numbers of invading
fish are determined, Lorson said. State fisheries officials are
evaluating methods used in other states, such as paying commercial
fishermen to net schools of fish en masse or the use of electric
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be
reached at 724-226-4691 or firstname.lastname@example.org.