SRP’s amur are imported from fish farms in Arkansas, fully sterilized. Otherwise, they would reproduce uncontrolled, and their progeny could make their way into natural water sources and wreak havoc. The sterilization process is complicated, but the upshot is that fish-farm workers collect eggs and sperm from normal adults, mix it in a steel cylinder, and pressurize it. This creates a third set of sex chromosomes that prevents reproduction. “It’s been a very good way of controlling their population,” Moorhead says.
Amur occupy almost all of SRP’s canal sections. It takes 35 to 50 fish per surface acre to adequately clear the weeds, and some sections swarm with more vegetation than others, so the number of amur varies per section.
Interestingly, SRP’s carp program helped spawn another singular breed: the urban angler. Many fish-eaters avoid the bony carp; however, Hemphill says it tastes “great” as long as you cut the brown part of the meat away. “Most people think they can’t be good because they’re algae eaters, but it’s all in how you prepare it and season it,” he says.
Though SRP prefers that people fish elsewhere, anglers are permitted to cast in the canals given the proper state fishing license, Moorhead says. However, white amurs must be released back into the water if caught. And even then, SRP will lose some fish; many will instinctively swallow the hook and die.
“And then we lose an employee, basically,” Moorhead says. “If they’re not doing their job, then we either have to replace them, or deal with more weed growth.”
• SRP is one of Arizona’s largest water suppliers. The utility company delivers about 325,851 gallons of water to metro Phoenix every year through its 131-mile canal system.
• Phoenix has 181 miles of canals, more than Venice (125 miles) and Amsterdam (47 miles) combined.
• The SRP canals run throughout the Valley, from 99th Avenue in the west to Power Road in the east, and from Greenway Road in the north to around Ocotillo Road in south Chandler.
• A seven-pound amur fish can eat three-quarters of its weight in weeds every day.
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