Black Carp, Mylopharyngodon piceus

The black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) is one of the most sought after fish in China. It is one of the top four elite fish along with silver, bighead, and grass carps.  The black carp is the only species of the genus Mylopharyngodon . It is a cyprinid fish found in China with its two main purposes being for food and for Chinese Medicine. The black carp is a rather large fish that can grow up to six feet (2 m) long and weigh in at over 220 pounds (104 kg). The carp grows to this size eating on snails and mussels. These domestic fish have been used in China’s culture for over a thousand years. The “Asian Carp” as known to the Americans is distributed worldwide but not as much as the other three carps. Because of the type and amount available of the carp’s food source, it can be limited and expensive.

It is because of their diet though that they are used in the United States in the operations of the aquaculture. Snails can cause damage to the crops and the carp are used to control the snails’ numbers. In order to prevent causing another shift in the aqua populations, sterile triploids versions of the species are used. There is fear that some of the fish would escape and start their own populations changing the environmental dynamics. There has to be breeding stock for the diploids but they are kept in another location.

There is not a state that allows releasing black carp, sterile or fertile. Even so there have been a number of confirmed black carp in the Mississippi River. Sightings have also occurred in Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana. All of the fish except one were diploids and assumed to be fertile. There are more reported sightings by fisherman outside of the ones above confirmed by biologists.

The motivation behind all of the precautions taken with the “Asian Carp” is that these black carp threaten the mollusks that are native to the United States. These mollusks are on such high alert that in 2007 the Lacey Act was passed that deemed the black carp as an “injurious species”. This Act made it illegal to cross state lines or even bring into the United States any sterile or fertile carp unless being used by aquaculturalists.

Kingdom: Animalia∙ Phylum: Chordata∙Class: Actinopterygii∙Order: Cypiniformes∙Family: Cyprindae

Image Caption: Mylopharyngodon piceus. Credit: Leo Nico/Wikipedia