Invasive Species: Asian Carp

Asian Carp

Asian Carp are very large, very active fish that consume massive amounts of food, reproduce rapidly, and can injure humans by their physical mass and weight. Asian Carp will destroy the Lakes’ ecosystems, as well as ruining the immense fishing and recreation industries. Furthermore, due to the size and weight of these active fish, the presence of Asian Carp in the Great Lakes would jeopardize the safety of those boating, swimming, and fishing in the lake. A concerted effort is currently underway to prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes, which is considered so serious that there is substantial federal funding and research specifically allocated for this purpose. Asian Carp have a healthy appetite, consuming forty percent of their body weight in food each day. It is feared that they would rapidly eating up the plankton which is the food supply of other fish and the foundation of the food chain in this ecosystem. Trout, walleye, and other freshwater fish would face extinction and the fishing industry would be decimated in a very short period of time.

Asian Carp have been found to spawn primarily in fast-flowing, high-volume rivers and mouths of tributaries. It is believed that while they have been located in lakes, their eggs are unlikely able to survive in lakes. Because the eggs are heavier than the water, the turbulence of the current is required to prevent them from sinking and dying. The water temperature range required for egg survival is 64-86 degrees F. Spawning activity is characterized by jumping out of the water and swimming upside down near the surface of the water. Asian Carp consume small marine life including snails and clams, as well as marine vegetation and insects. It is believed that during the winter months, they are able to survive without feeding for very long periods of time. As the Asian Carp are an extremely resilient and adaptable fish, it is not hard to believe that they would be able to adapt to new aquatic environments without too much difficulty.

Significant federal measures are presently being undertaken to prevent the establishment of Asian Carp in the Great Lakes. In 2010 President Obama’s Asian Carp Control Strategy accomplished additional and improved electric fish barriers, barricades to better control flood waters, identification of potential problem sites for transfer of invasive species, more comprehensive testing and control strategies, and legislation that prohibits the sale or transfer of Asian Carp between States and the importation of the fish into the States from other countries. The agency’s plans for 2011 include the development of alternative trap and net designs, more effective genetic detection methods, better monitoring systems, and reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the lakes which would cut off the food supply of the carp. Environmental scientists and other concerned parties have kept the pressure on and have insisted that time is of the essence in controlling this invasive species. Many believe that we are too late already and still others advocate a physical separation between the waterways connecting the Mississipi River and Great Lakes.

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