Assessment of the Effects of Regulation Restrictions On Farming Bighead Carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis)

Monday, September 9, 2013: 4:40 PM
Miller (Statehouse Convention Center)
Carole Engle , Aquaculture and Fisheries, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pine Bluff, AR
Farming bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) in the U.S. dates back to the late 1970s when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service actively promoted its culture and farming.  As a result, commercial catfish farmers began to co-culture bighead carp with catfish.  As filter feeders, the carp consumed little feed but produced 900 to 1,000 kg/ha of fish in addition to the yield of catfish from the same pond.  This additional weight was produced with only the costs of the fingerlings stocked and the extra time to sort bighead carp from catfish at harvest.  By 2003, there were more than 3,000 ha in co-culture of bighead carp and catfish in Arkansas and Mississippi with sales to live fish markets in the northeast and northern central areas of the U.S.  Surveys showed that bighead carp were a low-value species purchased by low-income shoppers, but the volume represented a substantial portion of sales for retailers and for livehaul businesses.  The total economic value of the bighead carp supply chain was estimated to range from $6 to $22 million in 2003.  When bighead carp were listed as injurious under the Lacey Act in 2011, the trade in bighead carp ceased.  Many of the farms that had raised bighead carp were small scale and relied on the additional income to weather times of low catfish prices.  The economic loss has been substantial.  While a few of the small farms that relied on bighead carp have successfully switched to row crop production, many did not survive and have declared bankruptcy.  Given the current breeding populations of bighead carp in the Mississippi River system, preventing fish farmers from selling farm-raised bighead carp has little or no positive environmental effect.  Reasonable policy alternatives such as culture of triploid bighead carp and fortified hauling tanks to secure fish during transport could have reduced the risk of escapes to even lower levels while preserving economic activity and jobs.