You can almost smell the fear of Asian carp in Minnesota when you are having conversations with anglers and conservationists. The news that the St. Croix River is testing positive for the presence of Asian carp raises concerns even more.
Stephanie Hemphill’s FAQ on the invasive species spells out why the fear is justified:
Why are Asian carp harmful?
Unsuspecting boaters up and down the Mississippi River have been injured when Asian carp, excited by the boat’s motor, jump high in the air and sometimes land in the boat.
But the carp are causing even more problems underwater. They consume massive amounts of plankton, the organism at the center of underwater ecosystems.
“These things are robbing everything else that depends on the productivity of the water,” said Phil Moy, who studies Asian carp at the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute. “The tiniest fish, the minnows that then feed larger fish that then feed us, all rely on plankton. And here we have a great big fish, and a lot of them, taking the food from everyone else.”
Asian carp can eventually dominate some water systems, squeezing out natives and favorite sport fish.
Dennis Anderson: What’s needed is big thinking towards invasive species (Star Tribune).
Minnesota is focused on figuring out how to keep the fish out of our rivers, lakes and streams. But for some who’ve already lost that battle the fish has become something positive.
Bolstered by government support, the Asian carp harvest has leapt thirtyfold in the past decade, creating a new industry, attracting fishermen and entrepreneurs, and feeding people all over the world (New York Times).
Scientists are still debating to what degree an infestation of the Great Lakes would hurt the existing $7 billion fishing industry. It’s also hard to project what it would mean for tourism.
In the meantime the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, a group of federal and local officials trying to combat the spread of the fish is considering a larger harvest on the Illinois River, where according to the Times Asian carp outnumber native fish 8 to 10 in some portions of the river.
The group hopes that an increased harvest of the fish will slow the spread to Lake Michigan and create more time for a permanent solution.
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