If you live near the Great Lakes, chances are you’ve at least heard of Asian Carp. The two most commonly photographed species are the bighead carp—known to approach 100lbs—and silver carp—famous for their ability to leap 10 feet above the water when startled. These invasive species are swimming toward Lake Michigan from the Mississippi River.
Bighead and silver carp are well suited for our climate. They consume vast amounts of food, reproduce quickly, and wipe out native fish where they thrive. In Illinois, the Asian carp population has doubled every year since they swam into the Illinois River. According to ecologists, the invasive carp species poised to make the leap into Lake Michigan will out-compete prized native species and game fish such as walleye, lake trout, sturgeon, perch, and large-mouth bass. If they establish reproducing populations in the Great Lakes and its tributary rivers, the region’s $7 billion fishing industry, $16 billion boating industry, and $18 billion hunting and wildlife observation industry are all at risk.
Unlike other invasive species like the sea lamprey, experts warn that there will be no practical population control measures immediately available if any of the Asian Carp species lurking just beyond the Chicago electric barriers escape. They will multiply, spread, and congregate in shallow waters near coastlines where they will disrupt the lives of millions of residents and tourists who depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water, recreation, and economic stability.
Click here to view a concise and comprehensive history of the problem.
Advocating for solutions
Right now, a number of actions are underway in the short term to keep invasive carp out of the Great Lakes, the most important of which is the operation of an electric barrier outside a Chicago canal. Although this electric barrier appears to be effective for now, it failed for 15 minutes during May 2012 and needs to be shut down periodically for maintenance. It does not keep out small fish, including baby Asian carp, or small fry.
Over 100 years ago, the Mississippi River and Great Lakes ecosystems were connected by a man-made canal. Now, many scientists and experts believe that the only way to keep Asian carp and other invasive species from traveling between these two waterways is to construct physical barriers in several places and restore the naturally occurring divide that once kept their waters apart. To accomplish this, Congress must authorize the work and funding, which would be conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Holding politicians accountable
In February, the Trump Administration ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to withhold a critical report most commonly known as The Brandon Road Study because it focuses on the Brandon Road lock and dam. By delaying the release of the Brandon Road Study, the Trump Administration recklessly shortens the window we have to prevent a large scale invasion of all five Great Lakes. Redesigning and renovating the Brandon Road lock and dam is an essential component to preventing billions of dollars of economic damage and incalculable ecological turmoil.
U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the Stop Asian Carp Now Act on June 21st alongside a group of bipartisan cosponsors from Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Wisconsin. A companion bill was also introduced in the House. This legislation would require the Trump Administration to release The Brandon Road Study. We’ve lobbied Great Lakes officials to get this bill out of committee and onto the House and Senate floors for a vote, and we’ve connected residents to opportunities to have their voices heard.
If you’re a U.S. citizen, tell your representatives in Congress to support the Stop Asian Carp Now Act and to demand action from the Trump Administration.
If you’re a Canadian citizen, let U.S. House and Senate leaders know that this issue isn’t just an American problem; Canadians are relying on their U.S. partners to stem the tide of invasive species.