PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Federal biologists have been netting thousands of carp in Utah Lake for the past week to get an estimate on their numbers as a prelude for deciding how to get rid of them.
It is the second year carp here have been counted, said Reed Harris of the June Sucker Recovery Program. A similar study last year put the number at 7.5 million, but more information was needed.
"We're trying to develop a model of how many we might have to take out each year in order to get rid of carp in Utah Lake," he said.
The eradication program could begin as early as next year.
A fishing company has been harvesting carp in the lake for decades to sell to pet food manufacturers and others, but the carp numbers continue to increase.
Until carp are removed, the June sucker, one of the world's most endangered fish and native only to Utah Lake, is unlikely to make a recovery, Harris said.
If all of the fish in Utah Lake were weighed together, 90 percent of that weight would be carp, he said.
"Not only are they competitive with all the other fish species, but they destroy any plants that used to be in the lake," he said. "They stir up the bottom, they make the lake more turbid, they make the environment suitable basically to only themselves, so other fish can't live there."
If the study shows carp are too numerous to be removed by netting them over several years, experts could try diking and draining portions of the lake or even poisoning the fish, but those would be last resorts, he said.
In the 1800s, Utah Lake was home to at least six native species of fish.
Today, the June sucker and the Utah sucker are the only two remaining, and experts believe there may be as few as 300 adult wild June suckers left.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)