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Asian Carp Are Still A Problem In Kentucky, And Boaters Might Pay To Help

Erica Peterson, WFPL

  A state Fish and Wildlife committee is recommending the full commission approve a plan to raise boat registration fees to combat the spread of invasive Asian carp in the commonwealth.

Asian carp are an invasive species, and they’ve been in the Mississippi and Ohio River basins for several years. They’re also in Kentucky and Barkley lakes in Western Kentucky. And once they make it into a body of water, they’re almost impossible to get out.

“They spawn so rapidly that their numbers are what the problem is,” said Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Mark Marraccini. “The silver carp can get 20, 30, 40 pounds apiece each, and bighead carp can get up to 100 pounds, although we see a lot of them in the 50, 60, 70 pound range.”

Besides posing serious problems for river and lake ecosystems, carp are becoming a public safety issue for boaters.

“[The carp are] startled at the approach of a boat motor — and they’re in schools of just hundreds and hundreds of them — and they begin leaping out of the water,” Marraccini said. “They’ll leap 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 feet sometimes. If you have a boat going down the river or down the lake, traveling at a speed of say 25, 30 mile an hour or faster and you collide with one of these leaping fish, it breaks windshields, it injures passengers. It’s becoming a real issue.”

Marraccini said this is why it makes sense to pay for Asian carp research and eradication efforts out of boat registration fees. The fees haven’t been changed since 2002; if the committee’s proposal is ultimately approved, it would raise boat registration fees for all sizes of boats.

From the Division of Fish and Wildlife:

  • The fee for boats under 16 feet in length would increase from $19 to $24 (neighboring state average is $22.50);
    Fees for boats 16-26 feet would increase from $23 to $38 (neighbor average is $40);
    Fees for boats 26-40 feet would increase from $29 to $50 (neighbor average is $72);
    Fees for boats longer than 40 feet would increase from $33 to $60 (neighbor average is $96).
    Inboard registration fees would increase from $34 to $47 and boats powered only by trolling motors would increase from $9 to $14.

Paddled boats like canoes and kayaks wouldn’t be affected.
Now that the members of the Administration, Education and Policy Committee have recommended the change, it will go before the full Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission at its meeting on March 17. If the commission votes to increase the fees, the change will have to be approved by two legislative committees and the governor before going into effect.

Erica reports on environment and energy issues for WFPL, which run the gamut from stories about the region’s biodiversity to coal mine safety and pollution issues. In the name of journalism, she’s gone spelunking, tagged mussels and taste-tested bourbon. Erica moved to Louisville in June 2011 from Charleston, West Virginia, where she worked for the state’s public radio and television affiliate. Besides Kentucky and West Virginia, she’s lived in New Jersey, Minnesota and Illinois. She lives with her husband and son in Louisville.
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