Researchers Could Find Way to Use Carp-Killing Virus

May 10, 2018 11:04 PM

The walleye fishing opener is Saturday, and researchers at the University of Minnesota are asking anglers for help.

They are paying close attention to fish kills this summer, especially those involving carp. And they want those heading out on the water to report back on what they see.

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It comes as The Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center may be close to a major breakthrough in controlling invasive carp. 

Isaiah Tolo is a fish detective. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS went with him to investigate a fish kill involving carp on Lake Cornelia in Edina.

Common carp are actually an invasive species. And Tolo said they do a lot of damage to lakes.

RELATED: Metro Lakes Among Those Red-Flagged in New Fish Consumption Guidelines

"When common carp do their feeding, they do what's called thick foraging," he said. "They tend to uproot a lot of aquatic vegetation."

Invasive carp are a classic example of a good idea gone bad.

One hundred years ago, they were intentionally shipped to Minnesota in special railroad cars and dumped in lakes and rivers.  

RELATED: Anglers Face Bait Shortage on Fishing Opener

"They ended up here because people valued them as food fish," Tolo said.

Nobody thought about the bad things bottom feeders do. And today, they've taken over.

Common carp have already caused damage in 70 percent of the lakes in southern Minnesota.

Right now, it's a problem without a solution. But that may be about to change.

Last summer, two carp-killing viruses showed up in Minnesota lakes for the first time.  

"We really don't know how it got here," Tolo said. "The classic way that people will say how the virus got here is that someone released a koi fish, which is the same species as common carp."

After examining hundreds of dead fish, University of Minnesota scientists made an important discovery.

It appears the two viruses only kill carp. Now, Tolo said they hope to turn those bad viruses into something good.

"And we are interested in the possibility of either of these viruses being a bio-control agent," he said. "To control common carp."

The Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center will test it in the lab before it's used on lakes - to make sure it doesn't kill fish that are native to Minnesota.
    
Scientists have been working on this in Australia for about 10 years. And they are about to start using it in lakes there for the first time. 

Being a fish detective is strenuous and stinky work, but it may lead to a breakthrough in improving water quality and waterfowl habitat in Minnesota lakes.

If you see a fish kill, scientists want to hear from you. You can use this interactive map to report it.  

The map allows you to pinpoint fish kill locations and send in pictures. Researchers will respond as quickly as possible, anywhere in the state.

Credits

Kevin Doran

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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