The giant alligator gar had once populated the waters from the Gulf of Mexico up to Illinois. Even if it disappeared half a century ago, it is most likely to have a comeback as the wildlife experts want to use it to fight the Asian carp increase in population.
The biologists are reintroducing the alligator gar in several states, as the invasive species had been spreading without any control in the Great Lakes region.
In order to do so, the US Fish and Wildlife Service staff is collecting adult alligator gars and transport them to Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery in Tupelo, Mississippi, where they can lay and fertilize eggs.
The Alligator Gar and the Asian Carp
The alligator gar is most interested in using the carp as food. Some experts are skeptical on the success of the action, as the Asian carp reproduces very quickly. However, the alligator gar has a high speed growing rate which may compensate its limited number of individuals.
The huge fish is very old, having been dated in fossils from the Early Cretaceous more than one hundred million years ago. They are considered to be primitive fish, as they kept many of their ancestors’ morphological traits
The alligator gar reaches a size of 9 feet and a weight of 300 pounds. It has a head that resembles an a crocodile and two rows of thin teeth. The fish is the second-largest in the US, after the white sturgeon.
The Asian carp can grow up to 4 feet in size and weights around 100 pounds, not such a small fish itself. It can feed on snails and mussels, it alters the food webs and some of the species can eat the plankton needed by larval fish and mollusks.
The alligator gar had been exterminated from the northern parts of its range by anglers who feared the gars would be a danger to sportfish. They often shot the swimmers or blew them up with dynamite, up to the point where the population became annihilated.
The officials try to repair the last century ignorance and to reintroduce the species in lakes, backwaters and rivers, sometimes even hiding their location from the general public. Illinois authorities adopted a resolution asking the state natural resources officials to adopt protective regulations for all four native gar species.
After the decision taken by biologists, the states hope that the gar population will grow and it will become a highly appreciated trophy fish. The world-record alligator gar had 327 pounds and 8 ½ feet.
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