Study Prompts Calls for Immediate Action on Asian Carp

Two U.S. senators are calling for immediate action to halt the spread of Asian carp in light of a new study that found the invasive fish could thrive in three of Ohio’s largest rivers.

Asian carp were imported to Arkansas fish farms in the 1960s; the fish have since spread throughout the Mississippi River basin. The menacing invaders, which hog fish food and leap out of the water when disturbed by the sound of boat motors, are on the verge of invading Lake Erie and Lake Michigan.

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that Asian carp could thrive in Ohio’s Maumee, Sandusky, and Grand rivers, which could allow the fish to establish reproducing populations in Western Lake Erie. Such a development would be devastating for the most bountiful of all the Great Lakes fisheries.

Michigan’s U.S. Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, called for immediate, stronger action to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.

“Asian carp represent a critical threat to our boating, fishing and tourism industries, and ultimately our Michigan way of life,” Stabenow said in a press release. “This report further shows how devastating the carp’s entry into the Great Lakes would be. We need action now to protect our natural resources.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently studying how best to keep Asian carp and other invasive species in the Mississippi River basin from invading the Great Lakes. The problem is that the study won’t be completed until late 2015, at the earliest.

Stabenow recently introduced the Stop Asian Carp Act of 2011 in an attempt to speed up the Corps of Engineers study. Her bill, which is stalled in a Congressional committee, would require the Corps to complete its Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study within 18 months.

National Wildlife Federation is leading efforts to keep Asian carp from colonizing the Great Lakes. Go here to learn more about what we are doing to combat the invasive fish.

The disturbing results of the USGS study were the most recent reason for the Corps of Engineers to hasten its study of how best to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

A Corps of Engineers study released in December found that the volume of cargo hauled on the Chicago Waterway System decreased by nearly 50 percent between 1994 and 2009. That study destroyed claims that separating the Lake Michigan from the Chicago Waterway System — to keep Asian carp in the manmade canals from invading the Great Lakes — would devastate Chicago’s economy. Go here for more study details.

Later this month, the Great Lakes Commission will release a much-anticipated study of potential options for separating Lake Michigan from the Chicago Waterway System. The Chicago-area canals  provide an artificial link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin.

The rationale for acting quickly to separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin grows stronger with every passing day. Sadly, most members of Congress and the head honchos in the Corps of Engineers don’t view this brewing ecological disaster with the same sense of urgency that is shared by the millions of people who rely on the Great Lakes for recreation and their livelihoods.

Perhaps a blow to the head from a flying Asian carp would change the minds of those in Congress and the Corps of Engineers who believe that we have plenty of time to keep Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. We don’t.