Why Asian carp pose a threat

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew Cass

There are many chal­lenges fac­ing the Great Lakes, among them the threat of a non-na­tive species — Asian carp — en­ter­ing its ecosys­tem.

Ac­cord­ing to an Oc­to­ber re­port re­leased by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Net­work, there is “much un­cer­tainty about the po­ten­tial Asian carp pop­u­la­tion abun­dance in the up­per Great Lakes (Superior, Michi­gan, Huron), though Lake Erie may be a very suit­able habi­tat for Asian carp.”

What are Asian carp?

There are four kinds of Asian carp that threaten the Great Lakes: sil­ver carp, big­head carp, grass carp and black carp.

Grass carp were the first to be brought to the United States from South­east Asia for use in aqua­cul­ture in the 1960s the other three fol­lowed in the 1970s. The fish were also used at wastew­a­ter treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties keep re­ten­tion ponds clean. Ac­cord­ing to AsianCarp.us, flood­ing al­lowed these fish to es­cape into the Mis­sis­sippi River sys­tem and mi­grate into the Mis­souri and Illi­nois rivers. The three rivers are all con­nected and al­low fish to swim freely be­tween them. Ad­di­tion­ally, the Illi­nois River is con­nected to the Great Lakes by a man­made con­nec­tion known as the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Sil­ver and big­head carp are con­sid­ered the threat to the

Great Lakes, ac­cord­ing to the Great Lakes Sea Grant Net­work. Both are mov­ing up the Illi­nois River to­ward Chicago Area Wa­ter­ways Sys­tem. Grass carp have been found in the Great Lakes water­shed. The Sea Grant Net­work study stated that there is ev­i­dence of suc­cess­ful grass carp spawn­ing in the San­dusky River, a Lake Erie Trib­u­tary.

Black carp are found in the Mis­sis­sippi River, cur­rently near the Iowa-Mis­souri bor­der, but they are mov­ing north to­ward new habi­tats. Why are they a prob­lem? Big­head and sil­ver carp feed on plank­ton by fil­ter­ing it out of the wa­ter, while grass carp eat veg­e­ta­tion and black carp eat mol­lusks like clams and snails. Big­head and Sil­ver carp are ca­pa­ble of eat­ing 5-20 per­cent of its body­weight each day.

“Asian carp are vo­ra­cious and often out­com­pete na­tive fish for food and habi­tat, which is of great con­cern to wildlife and re­source man­agers,” the Sea Grant study stated.

In the Great Lakes, Asian Carp will com­pete with na­tive fish like cis­cos, bloaters and yel­low perch, which in turn are fed upon by predator species in­clud­ing lake trout and wall­eye.

Ac­cord­ing to AsianCarp. us, there are no North Amer­i­can fish large enough to eat an adult Asian Carp.

“White pel­i­cans and ea­gles, how­ever, have been seen feed­ing on ju­ve­nile or smaller adult Asian carp,” the site stated. “Large­mouth bass have often been ob­served feed­ing on small ju­ve­nile Asian carp, and many other na­tive preda­tors prob­a­bly also feed on them be­fore they grow too large. How­ever, Asian carp pro­duce many off­spring which grow quickly and, if con­di­tions are good, rapidly be­come too large to be eaten by North Amer­i­can preda­tors. Ju­ve­nile Asian carp are also known to move into very shal­low wa­ter where they are in­ac­ces­si­ble to many large preda­tors.”

An es­tab­lished Asian carp pop­u­la­tion could also threaten Great Lakes re­cre­ation. Sil­ver carp are known for leap­ing out of the wa­ter at the sound of a boat or jet­ski mo­tors, caus­ing phys­i­cal harm to peo­ple and prop­erty, ac­cord­ing to AsianCarp.us.

Recre­ational boat­ing is a $16 bil­lion a year in­dus­try in the Great Lakes. Recre­ational

How healthy is Lake Erie? We take a look at the health and pop­u­lar­ity of Lake Erie as the sum­mer re­cre­ation sea­son be­gins. In ad­di­tion to the grow­ing al­gae prob­lem, this three-part series will look at in­vaders such as Asian carp and also the state of recre­ational boat­ing.

and com­mer­cial fish­ing ac­counts for an­other $7 bil­lion.

“In Ohio alone, Lake Erie is a vi­tal eco­nomic en­gine — cre­at­ing 100,000 tourism-re­lated jobs in North­ern Ohio,” state Rep. John Rogers, D-Men­tor-on-theLake, said in March. “As one of our na­tion’s great­est fresh­wa­ter wa­ter re­sources, the lake not only pro­vides drink­ing wa­ter for 3 mil­lion Ohioans, it is also re­spon­si­ble for gen­er­at­ing $750 mil­lion in state and lo­cal taxes, at­tract­ing 1.5 mil­lion hunters and an­glers who alone spend $2 bil­lion in Ohio. If we fail as a na­tion to ad­dress this grow­ing threat, the dam­age caused by this in­va­sive species will be ir­re­versible.”

Three big­head carp were col­lected in Lake Erie be­tween 1995 and 2000 in Western Lake Erie, ac­cord­ing to AsianCarp.us. Since 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice have mon­i­tored western Lake Erie in San­dusky and Toledo us­ing tram­mel nets as a re­sponse to those dis­cov­er­ies. The sur­veil­lance has not net­ted any more big­head or sil­ver carp.

“These sam­pling sug­gest a re­pro­duc­ing pop­u­la­tion does not ex­ists in Lake Erie,” AsianCarp.us stated.

Last June an 8-pound sil­ver carp made its way up the Illi­nois River, past the Bran­don Road Lock and Dam near Jol­liet, Illi­nois, and was found be­yond the elec­tric bar­rier and nine miles from Lake Michi­gan.

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease that fol­lowed an au­topsy of the fish spent a quar­ter of its life in the Des Plaines River water­shed be­fore be­ing caught and re­moved from the Lit­tle Calumet River above the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers’ elec­tric dis­per­sal bar­ri­ers.

“Though it is not known how the fish was able to ar­rive above the bar­rier de­fense sys­tem, anal­y­sis shows that the fish spent no more than a few weeks to a few months in the stretch of river where it was found,” the re­lease stated.

Pre­ven­tion ef­forts

Two months af­ter the sil­ver carp was found, a fed­eral re­port was re­leased an­a­lyz­ing op­tions for up­grad­ing

the Bran­don Road Lock and Dam. The re­port was orig­i­nally sup­posed to be re­leased in Fe­bru­ary 2017, but was de­layed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The re­port pro­poses $275 mil­lion for tech­no­log­i­cal and struc­tural up­grades at the site.

Among tech­nolo­gies the re­port en­dorses is us­ing sound sys­tems to cre­ate “com­plex noise” un­der­wa­ter that would de­ter fish from the Bran­don Road area, plus in­stalling a new ap­proach chan­nel and plac­ing an elec­tric bar­rier at its down­stream end that would re­pel fish and stun them if they get too close. Bran­don Road is sev­eral miles down­stream from an ex­ist­ing bar­rier net­work.

Other mea­sures would in­clude in­stalling wa­ter jets to wash away “small and stunned fish” that might be caught up around barges, plus a new lock where float­ing in­va­sive species could be flushed away.

The re­port says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would pay 65 per­cent of the costs project’s costs, with the rest com­ing from a “non-fed­eral spon­sor.”

The Bran­don Road study has re­ceived some push­back from elected of­fi­cials and busi­ness lead­ers in Illi­nois and In­di­ana, who have ar­gued that sig­nif­i­cant changes to the Bran­don Road com­plex could ham­per cargo ship­ment on the busy wa­ter­way.

Mem­bers of the U.S. Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives have been push­ing for the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers Chief’s Re­port Mile­stone for the Ten­ta­tively Se­lected Plan for the Bran­don Road Study to be re­leased no later than Fe­bru­ary 2019.

That ef­fort was re-upped this month when Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in­cluded the Fe­bru­ary 2019 com­ple­tion date as a re­quire­ment in the pro­posed “Amer­ica’s Wa­ter In­fra­struc­ture Act.”

State law­mak­ers have also urged sup­port of the study. Rogers and fel­low state Rep. Kent Smith, DEu­clid, in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion in March urg­ing U.S. Congress to sup­port fed­eral fund­ing for the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers in its ef­forts to stop Asian carp from in­vad­ing the Great Lakes.

“We will ei­ther stop Asian carp at the Bran­don Road Lock, or we will wish we did,” Smith said. “Our Great Lakes and bil­lions of dol­lars in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity hang in the bal­ance. The longer we wait, the greater the threat of an ecosys­tem catas­tro­phe.”

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