The Bighead Carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), is a freshwater fish and one of several Asian carps. Although native to China, the bighead carp is distributed globally as a source of food in the fish food market. They have also been introduced into the United States to remove excess or undesirable plankton and thus improve water quality in sewage treatment plants and aquaculture facilities. However, some fish escaped into the Mississippi River basin, where they are now firmly established.
The Bighead Carp is easily recognizable because of its large size and large, scaleless head. They can grow up to and over 40 pounds, with some growing to a record 85 to 100 pounds.
In the United States, a limited market has developed for bighead carp, particularly in ethnic communities, and they are farmed in ponds for this purpose. The live or very freshly killed market is most lucrative. Because of this, bighead carp are often transported live, and some feel that this is a high risk factor for the eventual spread of the fish, either through release by the end purchaser, or through escape during transport. Another potential avenue for unintentional spread of bighead carp is through use as fishing bait.
Communities are attempting to contain the spread of the extremely invasive bighead carp. New York has banned the import and possession of live bighead carp, with the exception of New York City, where they still may be legally sold in live food markets (but they must be killed before they leave the premises). Possession of live bighead carp has been illegal in Illinois since 2005. Beginning in February 2007, it is illegal to use live bighead carp as bait in Missouri.