Commercial fishermen in Tennessee say they could help reduce the number of invasive Asian carp with a relatively minor change in fishing regulations.
The carp grow up to 50 pounds. In addition to having a voracious appetite for the same food native fish feed on, the carp have injured fishermen by jumping into boats.
The Commercial Appeal reported fisheries chief Bobby Wilson of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency sees commercial fishing as part of the solution.
"Asian carp are a gigantic problem, and it's no secret that we need to remove as many as we can," said Wilson. "People have looked at other options for getting rid of them like poisons or diseases that are specific to the carp, but most of those options are still many years down the road. If we don't do something before then, it'll be too late - and allowing commercial fishermen to take more of them could be the perfect solution for everyone."
Fishermen want the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission to approve nets with wider openings, said Mike Kelly of the state's Commercial Fishing Advisory Board.
"Right now, a net with a 4-inch diameter is the largest you can use," Kelly told the TFWC last week. "From 4 to 6 inches is illegal. All they're asking for is to go up to 4½ inches. A bigger diameter net would allow them to hold more of these big 50-pound fish."
Nets have been restricted to four inches to protect juvenile paddlefish. Kelly said, however, nets used to take the carp usually aren't deployed in areas frequented by the paddlefish.
The species was accidentally released into American waters two decades ago.
While there isn't much of an appetite for the species domestically, it could be an export to China, where the flesh is considered a delicacy.
"They don't even jump over there," Wilson said. "The Asian people believe they do all of the jumping here because they have a certain vivacity created by our cleaner water."
TFWC member Bill Cox of Collierville said he's willing to help make changes.
"We've reached a point where something has to be done," said Cox. "If there is a market for these things and the commercial fishermen can do more to help us get rid of them, I think it would be a great thing."
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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