Tests show one of 50 biological samples researchers took below Watts Bar Dam north of Dayton, Tennessee, earlier this year came back positive for bighead carp, a species of Asian carp that can be detrimental to the local ecosystem.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency chief of fisheries Frank Fiss gave the news as the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, the governing body of the TWRA, met Friday in Chattanooga.
Fiss said there have been no sightings or reports of the fish. However, the test means at least a few of the fish could be in the region. He said the lab that did the testing assured him there is no possibility for a false-positive result.
And he outlined for commissioners the agency's work to ensure the fish is contained and eradicated.
"I want to get ahead of this in East Tennessee," he said.
Asian carp have caused major problems in waterways throughout the Midwest and the South. Three species of Asian carp are considered invasive and threatening freshwater systems across the eastern U.S.: silver, black and bighead carp. Bighead carp travel in smaller schools, often just a couple at a time, and are able to move quicker through a river system. They often arrive in an area ahead of silver carp, which travel more slowly, in large schools. Both types of fish can suffocate an ecosystem - pushing out native species and taking food sources.
Carp, which can grow to be 100 pounds, also leap when frightened, making them a serious danger to boaters.
The agency's plan is fourfold: prevent the further movement of carp, remove carp from existing populations, monitor abundance and movements, and communication to inform and request help.
Contact staff writer Mark Pace at email@example.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.