The June sucker, Chasmistes liorus, is a critically endangered fish endemic to Utah Lake and the Provo River. The fish was once plentiful within its range but is now facing problems with pollution, turbidity, drought, alteration of water flow, loss of native vegetation, and the introduction of new species, primarily the European carp (Cyprinus carpio) and the walley (Sander vitreus vitreus).

carp Utah gets rid of 6 million carps to promote June sucker
Grass Carp

The European carp was introduced to the lake as a food fish during the late 19th century and is causing severe problems for the June sucker by ripping out weeds while feeding along the bottom. Without these weeds, June sucker fry have no place to hide and end up in the stomach of predatory fish like walley and bass.

During recent years, about 100,000 June suckers have been raised in a hatchery and released into the lake, but the state of Utah are now saying that they have to do something about the carp problem if they want the June sucker population to survive in the long run. It’s probably the biggest barrier to June sucker recovery,” says Mike Mills, the local coordinator for the recovery program.

Wildlife officials are now planning on removing roughly 1 million pounds of European carp from the lake each year during the next coming six years in an effort to make the environment more favourable for the June sucker. But what do you do with 6 million dead carps?

As of now, a substantial amount of dead carps has been turned into compost, and there is also talk about using them for international humanitarian missions. Other suggestions include converting them into bio-fuels and garden fertilizer, or use them as a protein source in imitation crab meat for the food markets of Central Europe and Asia. The old fashion solution of turning fish into fish sticks, canned fish, fish sauce, fish meal and pet food is naturally also an option.

Some have suggested that the carps should be tossed out to rot away in a landfill or placed in a hole in the desert, but Wildlife officials are not very keen on that idea. “It’s hard to see a fish wasted when there are people in the world that are starving and could use the food,” says Mike Mills. “It’d be great if we could find a market for these fish and that market could fund the whole effort.