Kentucky needs more funding to combat the spread of invasive Asian carp in the state’s waterways.
To help fund this need, members of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Administration, Education and Policy Committee have recommended that the full commission consider increasing Kentucky boat registration fees at its March 17 meeting. The recommendation does not include fees on paddlecraft such as canoes or kayaks.
Committee members say the increase is necessary to blunt Kentucky’s population explosion of Asian carp. These invasive carp, which threaten native sport fish species and present a safety hazard to recreational boaters, endanger the $1.2 billion fishing and recreational boating industry in western Kentucky.
Kentucky is now home to three types of Asian carp: silver carp, big head carp and now black carp. Silver and big head carp numbers have exploded along most of the Ohio River and its tributaries. They are prevalent in Kentucky and Barkley lakes.
A typical silver carp weighs from five to 30 pounds. Big heads can weigh more than 100 pounds, but 50-80 pounds is more common.
Asian carp school by the thousands and can fill the air with jumping fish when a boat motor startles them. “The surface of the water around and in front of a moving boat can suddenly erupt with thousands of jumping fish,” said Fisheries Division Director Ron Brooks, a nationally recognized authority on this invasive species. “The damage to boats and injuries to boaters caused by high speed collisions with these fish are increasing each year.”
Safety problems caused by Asian carp are growing. The department already receives reports of water skiers and tubers being struck by jumping fish while skimming behind a boat going 30 mph. On some Kentucky waterways, it is becoming a likely and dangerous occurrence.
Controlling Asian carp is a challenge for states drained by the Mississippi River and its various tributaries.
“Asian carp are extremely prolific breeders and have been competing with our native fisheries for quite some time,” said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Gregory Johnson. “Each female fish can produce up to a million eggs and spawn multiple times each year. Their numbers have reached the point now where they even threaten the safety of our boaters.”
Recreational boaters threatened by the presence of Asian carp may be asked to help fund the effort to take on this menace.
Kentucky annually registers more than 170,000 motorized vessels. Boater registration fees pay for new boat ramps, maintenance of 165 aging ramps and provides for boating safety and enforcement.
Kentucky has not raised its boat registration fees in 15 years. In evaluating the state’s pricing structure, committee members noted that registering a boat in Kentucky costs far less on average than the surrounding states. Proposed new rates would continue to keep Kentucky’s registration fees lower than neighboring states.
Controlling the fishes’ numbers and territorial expansions are forcing the department to seek additional resources. Department officials identified a shortfall of about $1.8 million needed for Asian carp control, engineering programs that build and maintain boat launch ramps for boater access, boater safety and enforcement.
The recommendations include increasing registration pricing for boats under 16 feet in length from $19 to $24 (neighboring state average is $22.50); boats 16-26 feet from $23 to $38 (Neighbor average is $40); boats 26-40 feet from $29 to $50 (neighbor average is $72); and boats longer than 40 feet from $33 to $60 (neighbor average is $96). Inboards would increase from $34 to $47 and boats powered only by trolling motors from $9 to $14.