Study: Asian carp could live in all five Great Lakes

If Asian carp invade the Great Lakes, the voracious fish could survive and spread throughout all five of the lakes, according to a new study by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The report found that it would take as few as 10 male and 10 female Asian carp to establish a reproducing population in the Great Lakes. Read the report here.

The Canadian study came as scientists in the U.S. continue to find Asian carp DNA in waters connected to Lake Michigan — well beyond an electric barrier that was supposed to halt its advance toward the Great Lakes.

“This report underscores the severity of the threat Asian carp threat and the need for leadership so that we can solve the problem once and for all,” said Andy Buchsbaum, director of National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “The Asian carp are moving toward the Great Lakes far faster than the government response, and this report shows that the cost of inaction will be devastating. President Obama and Gov. Romney need to declare that they will take the necessary action to build an effective physical barrier to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.Read the Great Lakes Pledge here.

Asian carp were imported to commercial fish farms in Arkansas in the 1960s. They escaped into the Mississippi River system in the 1980s and have been swimming up the river, toward Lake Michigan and Lake Erie.

Asian carp breed like mosquitoes, eat like hogs and leap out of the water when disturbed by the sound of boat motors.
 The fish, which eat up to 40 percent of their body weight daily in plankton, could decimate the Great Lakes food chain that supports a $7 billion fishery. Leaping Asian carp would also pose a serious safety threat to boaters.

Although Asian carp could live in all of the Great Lakes, the Canadian study concluded that the invaders would have major ecological impacts in lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Asian carp would transform the ecosystems in those lakes, disrupt native fisheries and create new food webs, according to the study. Other findings were:

— Chicago area waterways and canals are the most likely entry point through which Asian carp would access the Great Lakes. The probability of entry of Asian carp entering Lake Michigan through the Chicago canal system is “very high,” with a “high” degree of certainty.

— Asian carp could survive in the relatively cold waters of all five Great Lakes.

— There is enough food in the lakes to support Asian carp.

— And there is suitable spawning habitat for Asian carp in tributaries that flow into all five Great Lakes.

Watch NWF’s video to see how Asian carp could wreak havoc on the Great Lakes.