LITTLE ROCK — Commissioners with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission unanimously approved a $70,000 increase to the AGFC’s Fisheries Budget to purchase and outfit two specialized boats that will be crewed and used to catch and remove invasive carp in the Lower Mississippi River Basin and the Arkansas/White/Red Rivers Basin.
The $70,000 budget increase is to take advantage of $1.2 million from four U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants to control the spread of invasive carps. Darrell Bowman, AGFC Assistant Chief of Fisheries, said most of those funds are being used in academic research at multiple universities as part of a multi-state collaborative partnership.
“This is a new problem, so we have to learn as we go,” Bowman said. “We have to take what we learn and try to control this species. We also need to do what we can to control these fish while that research is going on.”
AGFC Director Austin Booth commended the efforts being led in the fight against invasive species.
“Controlling invasive carp is a monumental challenge, and it is one we hear about all the time from our beloved anglers,” Booth said. “[AGFC Fisheries Chief Ben Batten] and Darrell not only thought outside the box to identify a federal funding source to obtain the personnel and the equipment necessary, but they also went so far to ensure the funding was there to study and measure our success in this effort...That’s the model we should be undertaking in all areas of this agency and that effort has my highest support.”
Invasive carp species include the bighead carp, black carp and silver carp. They were introduced to Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s to reduce algal blooms and vegetation issues in aquaculture operations. After escaping to the wild during flood events, they have spread throughout the lower Arkansas River, the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri and Illinois rivers. In addition to feeding on plankton and reducing available forage at the base of the aquatic food web, invasive carp can pose a safety risk. Silver carp, in particular, are known for their habit of jumping from the water when startled, becoming a danger to boaters.
The AGFC has worked to prevent further spread of the species through public education efforts and regulations banning the transport of live bait, which could harbor juvenile invasive carp. The agency also has encouraged the use of the carp in commercial processing to create more incentives for commercial anglers to help harvest these invasive species in Arkansas waters.
The Commission also approved a package of regulations regarding Arkansas’s $1,000 Lifetime Hunting and Fishing Sportsman’s Permit. The Code of Regulations was amended to allow lifetime license holders who have moved out of state but obtained their license prior to Sept. 1, 2021, to apply for and obtain public land elk-hunting and alligator-hunting permits through the AGFC’s annual permit process. Holders of the $1,000 Lifetime Sportsman’s Permit who have moved out of state, and who have purchased their permit before Sept. 1, 2021, also may waterfowl hunt on any AGFC WMA without a Nonresident WMA Waterfowl Hunting Permit and may hunt without date restrictions applicable to other nonresident hunters. The penalty for counterfeiting or falsifying information on any AGFC license also was increased with this regulations package.
During his address to the Commission, Director Booth also emphasized the ongoing commitment to maintaining and enhancing the infrastructure that provides hunting and fishing opportunities to Arkansans. He highlighted the Commission’s recent authorization of $5.6 million in funds toward the renovation of the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery and needed infrastructure improvements at Henry Gray Hurricane Lake Wildlife Management Area to relieve stress on vital waterfowl habitat on the area’s greentree reservoirs.
“These projects are a perfect representation of how important our infrastructure and wildlife management areas are to Arkansans, and therefore to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission,” Booth said. “These projects will benefit thousands of Arkansans and outdoorsmen from all across the state from all walks of life, from trout anglers to public land hunters to folks who simply love to fish from the bank.”
In other business, the Commission:
Authorized $90,000 of Marine Fuel Tax funds to chip seal 3 miles of Chesmond Ferry Road road leading to the White River in Izard County.
Recognized Deke Whitbeck, President of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, who spoke about his excitement of the upcoming Arkansas Outdoors Hall of Fame Banquet on Aug. 28.
Approved the donation of permits that allow the general public to observe certain wildlife management actions to the AGFF for fund-raising purposes.
Formally elected all wildlife officers and employees to work on behalf of the Commission.
Formally voted to authorize Director Austin Booth for administrative decision-making to act on the Commission’s behalf.
Authorized Director Booth to resolve an encroachment issue on Tri-County Lake where a neighboring landowner inadvertently placed a temporary structure on Commission-owned property.
Recognized 12 employees with a combined 245 years of faithful service, conserving the natural resources of The Natural State.
Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with a total original cost of $81,628 and a present net book value of $19,339.
A video of the meeting is available at https://www.youtube.com/user/ArkansasGameandFish.