The Great Lakes are under attack by an invasive fish species that could potentially devastate the region’s $7 billion annual fishing industry. With no natural predators and an insatiable appetite, the Asian carp (photo below), originally brought to the United States to help rid catfish farms and wastewater treatment ponds of algae, can eradicate entire fish populations by consuming all of the available plankton, which are the primary food source for those sport fish we love to pursue.
Enter the alligator gar (photo below), a fish with a major public relations problem. Always thought of as a “trash fish,” the once-reviled predator is now being seen as a valuable fish in its own right, and as a possible weapon against a more threatening intruder: the invasive Asian carp. Alligator gar are the second largest freshwater fish in North America, ranking only behind the white sturgeon. They can grow up to 9 feet in length and weigh more than 300 pounds. The alligator gar has shown a taste for Asian carp and may be the answer to help control the spread of these invasive creatures threatening our Great Lakes ecosystem.
With the invasive Asian carp on the doorstep of the Great Lakes, officials have tried a wide variety of measures to keep the fish away including water cannons, hiring commercial fisherman, and even electric fishing. Alligator gar are now being restocked in lakes, rivers and backwaters in several states, the hope being that they will help ward off the invasion of Asian carp.