PARKERSBURG - Asian carp continue to make their way up the Ohio River, and state officials are moving to action.
Earlier this spring officials with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources captured a largehead Asian carp near Point Pleasant. Chris O'Bara, a fisheries biologist for the West Virginia DNR, said another was identified around Wheeling a few years ago. He said there have also been reports of the invasive species near New Martinsville.
"If they are in the river will have to deal with it," O'Bara said.
O'Bara said the fish have moved upstream and expanded over the last 10 years. The invasive carp has been threatening river habitats in the South, Midwest and Great Lakes region of the United States. The fish are abundant in the Ohio River in Kentucky and near Cincinnati, O'Bara said.
The Asian carp are large fish that can grow to weigh more than 50 pounds. Some are as large as 100 pounds.
The fish are filter feeders that consume large amounts of plankton. Some experts are concerned the introduction of the carp to the river could crowd out mussels and shad that rely on the same food supply. The carp, in addition to being an ecological hazard, can also be a safety hazard for boaters and personnel watercraft.
The silver species of carp will jump out of the water and have been known to collide with boaters.
Of the invasive carp, O'Bara said the silver carp and black carp have not yet been found in the area. Only the bighead carp have been identified.
O'Bara said the carp caught near Point Pleasants was an adult, and lack of young indicated the fish are not yet reproducing. However, it may only be a matter of time before they become more common to the area.
O'Bara said officials are working with other Ohio River states and are planning surveys and field work on the river.
"Right now, the best thing is getting the word out," he said.
"If people do see something they are not quite sure about, call our office and let us know. If they have something in hand they are concerned about give us a call."
O'Bara said the carp are very distinctive, large fish.
"They have distinct eyes," he said.
Anyone who catches an Asian carp should contact DNR officials, O'Bara said.
"Ultimately, we will have to deal with it."