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Invasive black carp are established in the Mississippi River basin. Here's what that means

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The invasive black carp is now living to adulthood and naturally reproducing in the wild in parts of the Mississippi River basin.

That includes tributaries like the Illinois River, where invasive fish species have long plagued the waterways.

"Black carp are non-native fish species in North America," said Patrick Kroboth, a fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "They were imported the United States in the 1970s and '80s for use as a biological control for snails and aquaculture."

A study from the U.S Geological Survey is the first to identify an established black carp population. Invasive Chinese aquaculture species like silver carp, bighead carp, and grass carp also are widespread throughout much of the Mississippi River basin.

The invasive species can have a deleterious effect on native plant and fish in the river systems. The black carp can grow up to 3 feet long, preying on mussels that improve water quality through filtering.

Kroboth said the study provides data for decision-makers to use when they develop controls on the spread of the species. Scientists have long worked to prevent the spread of the species to the Great Lakes.

Last year, the state of Illinois rebranded the species as "copi," as part of a broader marketing attempt to make the fish more appealing for human consumption.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.