Kentucky team zaps dozens of jumping Asian carp in electrofishing test

‘Shocking’ boat used in Kentucky to stun Asian carp in effort to stud invasive species
Warning: Disturbing content. Discretion advised. Video released Wednesday shows a boat using "electrofishing" equipment to stun hundreds of invasive Asian carp for a study near the Barkley Dam in Kentucky.

Biologists in the state of Kentucky have started using a shocking technique to deal with their Asian carp invasion.

Video footage of a fishing boat owned by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources shocked in more ways than one when hoards of Asian carp jumped out of the water, only to be stunned into stillness by the boat’s electrofishing lures.

The fish then float to the surface, allowing the biologists to collect them for counting and measuring. The shock doesn’t hurt the animals — it simply renders them motionless just long enough to be captured.

The test was conducted at the Barkley Dam along the Cumberland river in Kentucky.

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“It’s just to give folks an idea of how many fish we’re dealing with below the dam,” Ron Brooks, the department’s fisheries division director, told CNN. “We collect and try to distribute them to buyers.”

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The Asian carp in the footage were harvested and sold to buyers for fertilizer, fish bait and even food products for people to eat.

Luckily — or unluckily for fishers and officials managing waterways — this type of carp are overpopulating many areas of the United States.

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First introduced to the U.S. in the 1970s by catfish farmers, Asian carp have inundated waterways along the Mississippi watershed, as well as the Illinois and Missouri rivers. Schools of Asian carp can cause major disturbances along the surface of the water because they will leap out of the water when frightened. Their booming numbers are also distorting local ecosystems as they eat up all the food in the waterways where they live.

And because Asian carp can jump so high — up to two metres in the air — it’s easy for them to escape ponds and take over the river system, Brooks explained.

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“They were allowed to bring Asian and silver carp in to take care of algal blooms, and they used the fish and sold them to the ethnic markets, like [the] Chinese market,” he said. “They were brought here for a good reason, but the folks who brought them had no idea that it would cause such a terrible problem.”

They’ve now even become a tourist problem, given they pose a threat to recreational fishing and boating in the area.

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Kentucky wildlife officials hope their plan will prevent the Asian carp from spreading any further — including north to the Great Lakes and Canada.

“If we can get a barrier and combine that with the commercial fishing effort, then our ability to get the carp numbers down will be sufficiently enhanced,” Brooks said. “This year, we expect 5 million pounds (2.3 million kilograms) of Asian carp, at least, to be caught.”