More On the Asian Carp

I keep harping on the Asian Carp. Our country has a sad history of intentional and unintentional introductions of invasive species that have wreaked havoc in entire ecosystems and have cost us billions of dollars to manage, control or barely mitigate.

Some obvious mistakes are the House Sparrow, European Starling, Rock Pigeon and Norway Rat. Less obvious mistakes are the Chinese Pheasant and Brook Trout. 

 This carp was brought over for what seemed like good reasons but now has potential to alter, for the worse, the entire Great Lakes Ecosystem. So solutions, even dramatic ones like temporarilly changing the flows of the  Chicago River are worth a try or the potential for heartache is huge and US history, a trashheap of good ideas that backfired, may backfire here at the expense of an entire Ecosystem


Enter the Asian carp A native of China, four species of asian carp (whose weight can exceed 100 pounds) were originally imported to America by southern catfish farmers in the 1970s to eat pond algae. After floods decade ago caused some ponds in Arkansas to overflow, the fish escaped and have slowly curled their way up the Mississippi, leaping over and slipping through man-made barriers.  Over time, they even made their way into the last tributaries connecting the Gulf of Mexico with Lake Michigan. If the carp infest the lake, they will undoubtedly wreak havoc on the region’s ecosystem. By eating massive amounts of plankton and algae, the fish would essentially knock out the lowest species in the water’s food-chain, crowding out smaller fish. They also reproduce at blistering speeds; one female can produce upwards of 1 million eggs in her lifetime. “They are programmed to eat and breed,” said Jennifer Nalbone, the Navigation and Invasive Species specialist at Great Lakes United, on a conference call with reporters last week. When startled, the fish can also leap up to eight feet in the air with enough force to smash into fishing and recreational boats. While it might take years for the carp to establish a firm presence, the threats to the region’s $7 billion fishing industry, as well as the $16 billion recreational boating industry, are immense. How close are they to Lake Michigan?In late November, the Army Corps of Engineers validated scientific research that found the species had breached an electric barrier on the Sanitary and Ship Canal, less than 100 miles from the lake. In response, Illinois officials quickly dumped a toxic chemical into a nearly 6-mile stretch near Lockport where the fish were located, killing an estimated 100 tons of additional fish in the process. But it wasn’t enough. In late January, researchers at the University of Notre Dame identified Asian carp DNA in Lake Michigan’s Calumet Harbor near the Illinois-Indiana border. Last Tuesday, Illinois officials promised to take another shot at targeted removal. Starting this week, they will use nets and electrofishing techniques to trap the fish. While none have yet been detected in the lake itself, the urgency is clearly growing. The dueling solutions


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: