Unusual fish caught in the Fraser River near Lillooet and Lytton are common carp, not the highly invasive Asian silver carp that have infested some U.S. river systems.
An alert circulated last week by area First Nations warned Asian carp had been found in the river, but the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Monday all the fish caught so far are European or common carp.
They’ve lived in some Interior lakes for decades, but it’s rare to see them in the mainstem Fraser.
UBC zoologist Eric Taylor called common carp “relatively harmless” and said they’ve been found in the Shuswap and parts of the lower Fraser near Richmond and Westham Island for at least 40 years.
Aboriginal fishermen near Lillooet netted several carp recently.
Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Craig Orr said he’d be concerned for the Fraser’s salmon stocks if Asian silver carp had arrived in the river.
“They’re an extremely invasive and destructive species,” he said.
According to DFO, Asian silver carp compete for food with local fish, prey on their larvae and cause serious habitat damage.
They’re also known for jumping out of the water – often right into motor boats – and can pose a hazard to boaters and water skiers.
There’s a concerted effort underway in Ontario to keep invasive carp from the U.S. out of Canadian waters. B.C. banned the possession or sale of Asian carp in 2010.
They were originally imported to the U.S. for use in fish farms but soon escaped to the wild.