Asian Carp an Issue in 2012 Federal Budget Debate

from Wildlife Promise

Asian carp/ Photo courtesy USFWS

Asian carp/ Photo courtesy United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Asian carp, the menacing invasive fish that rocket out of the water and are on the verge of storming the Great Lakes, have apparently captured the attention of Congress.

Finally.

The invasive fish could be part of the U.S. Senate’s 2012 budget vote. The Senate may vote as early as this week on a budget amendment that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up its study of how best to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River basin from reaching the Great Lakes.

For that we can thank U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. She introduced the Stop Asian Carp amendment to the budget bill.

Stabenow’s amendment would direct the Army Corps to complete its study of how best to separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin within 18 months. As it stands now, the Corps won’t complete its Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) until 2015. That’s far too long — Asian carp are on the verge of invading Lake Michigan.

Four species of Asian carp were imported to commercial fish farms in Arkansas in the 1960s; they later escaped into the Mississippi River. The gluttonous invaders now dominate vast areas of the Mississippi River basin. If allowed to reach the Great Lakes, the fish would pose potentially deadly threats to boaters and could devastate the region’s $7 billion fishery.

The Army Corps is currently relying on three electric fences in the Chicago Waterway System to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers from reaching Lake Michigan. But those electric fences don’t repel all sizes of Asian carp, according to the Army Corps’ own studies.

Researchers have already found Asian carp DNA, and one live Asian carp, in waters near Chicago that are connected to Lake Michigan. Despite the imminent threat of these menacing fish invading the Great Lakes, the Army Corps is content to study the problem for another four years.

The Stabenow amendment would ensure that agencies charged with protecting the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins have the information needed to re-imagine the Chicago Waterway System to protect U.S. waters that provide drinking water, jobs and recreational opportunities to millions of Americans.

Please take a moment today to call or e-mail your U.S. senators and urge them to vote for the Stop Asian Carp amendment. It is our best hope of keeping these invasive fish from laying siege to the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem.