Can we combat invasive carp by bringing back a once-reviled predator?

August 3, 2016, 1:29 p.m.
Alligator gar
Photo: Nantawat Chotsuwan/Shutterstock

Asian carp have gained a fin-hold in our waterways and the invasive species outcompetes native species for both food and habitat. And unfortunately, once they settle in an area, the enormous fish are next to impossible to eradicate.

Even so, conservationists hold out hope that a native predator might be able to keep Asian carp numbers in check.

The alligator gar is also a huge fish — in fact it's the second largest freshwater fish in the United States. This big beast, which grows as big as 10 feet long and can weigh as much as 300 pounds, could become our ally against invasive carp. The only thing is, we have to bring it back to waterways where we once drove it to local extinction.

"Persecuted by anglers and deprived of places to spawn, the alligator gar — with a head that resembles an alligator and two rows of needlelike teeth — survived primarily in southern states in the tributaries of the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico after being declared extinct in several states," reports The Blade. "Gar now are being restocked in lakes, rivers, and backwaters in several states. In May, Illinois lawmakers passed a resolution urging state natural resources officials to adopt regulations to protect all four gar species native to the state."

Though alligator gar do feed on Asian carp, their ability to keep the invasive species in check is still an unknown. If they can, however, the alligator gar might just transition from "trash fish" to treasure.