“Asian Carp and the Effect on the Great Lakes” Statement of the Issue Asian carp are a threat to the Great Lakes if they invade them. They could destroy the Great Lakes ecosystem by overpopulating the lakes and disrupting the food chain. Asian carp are large fish that can weigh up to 100 pounds and grow to more than four feet long and will consume an excess amount of food and leave the other fish with very little to eat. With these carp in the water sport fishing will be affected along with the ecosystem.
Not only are the Great Lakes involved, the Mississippi River and all tributaries have had Asian carp affected their waters and caused a drop in their ecosystems. These carp can mass produce which would cause an overpopulation of the lakes and with their size and stature they will force the local fish like trout, bass, and perch to seek other waters to survive or end up dying off. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Mike Leavitt said, “Asian carp threaten both the ecology and the economy of the Great Lakes. Asian carp’s size plays a big role in the Great Lakes because they are the main predator and no other native fish to the Great Lakes can compete against them. The carp also have a leaping ability to disrupt fishing boats by causing injuries to the boaters. Some sources have stated these carp have leaped out of the water and caused lacerations due to the sharp fins, they have caused black eyes and concussions due to the size and force they would make on impact of a speeding boat. The elimination of these fish is nearly impossible due to all these factors and the Great Lakes climate is perfect for them to survive.
Background and History Asian carp, also known as heavy-bodied cyprinids, were first introduced to American waters back in the 1970s. Their main job was to remove algae from catfish farms and ponds. When the ponds were flooded the carp got into the tributaries of the Mississippi and headed upstream towards the Great Lakes. The three main species of Asian carp introduced were bighead carp (hypophthalmichthys nobilis), silver carp (hypophthalmichthys molitrix), and grass carp (ctenopharyngodon idella). There are now eight different types of Asian carp affecting the United States.
Asian carp originated in China about thousand years ago and is a main source of food and used for the creation of Chinese medicines. Some carp are massive in size with them ranging up to 100 pounds and lengths up to four to six feet. Silver carp have the jumping ability of eight to ten feet high, and they jump when they are easily startled by boats and personal watercrafts. Some of the bigger carp do not jump because of their massive size. Sources say if a carp jumps out of the water and hit someone going at a steady pace; it will feel like a bowling ball hitting them.
As of now only a few bighead carp have been found in Lake Erie, but showed no signs of reproduction. According to EPA records, no silver or black carp have been found in any of the five Great Lakes. The Asian carp were declared an invasive species under the Lacey Act in 2007. An invasive species is a species that is non-native to the land and affects the habitats to cause damage to the ecosystem or economic system of the area. The carp is known as a prize food in foreign countries but here in the United States they are more of a nuisance and not seen as a fish people would catch to eat.
Asian carp feed on plankton and algae in the water. By doing this they take away the main source of food for the smaller fish in the lakes which in turn takes away from the bigger fish like perch and walleye. The Asian carp can survive in the Great Lakes region because their natural habitat in the eastern hemisphere was nearly the same. Currently, Asian carp have been found all around the Mississippi River and even into the Ohio River, Missouri River, and Arkansas River. These carp average life span is sixteen years with the oldest survivor being thirty-three years.
Asian carp lay eggs mostly in rivers by the mouths of rivers and avoid lakes because their eggs have a nearly impossible chance to survive. All large Asian carps can produce up to a million eggs a year. As newborn fish, carps have a low survival rate without parental care, but when they become adolescents their chance of survival increases dramatically. The feeding style of each species varies in many ways. The grass carp is a vegetarian fish that eats mostly long, thin vegetation, but if necessary will eat on a wide variety of vegetation. Grass carp will even briefly exit water to retrieve vegetation and will not eat during the winter.
The bighead carp is the biggest eater of all the species. They devour all algae they consume and have the ability to eliminate toxins from bad algae. The bighead feeds on the surface of the water and has no stomach so they can consume a lot more than any fish. The silver carp is the same as the bighead in eating habits including no stomach. They usually feed in schools of fish and can eat more towards the bottom of the water unlike bighead which have to feed on the top. The biology of Asian carp is still being researched daily and they have been known to break the cycle they have developed and change the landscape of researchers.
Action to Date Starting in 2002, the US Army Corps of Engineers developed an electrical fish barrier in the Chicago sanitary and ship canal. The Chicago sanitary and ship canal is the only way to connect the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. Scientists and engineers studied this barrier for two years as it was a temporary barrier, after those two years and positive results it became a permanent fixture. The barrier is made up of electrodes that stretch across the canal at 220 feet apart. The goal of the barrier is to turn fish away by causing DC currents into the water.
In 2004, former president George W. Bush issued an executive order to create a Federal Task Force making up of the Great Lakes states governors. In November 2009, genetic material of Asian carp was found beyond the electrical barriers. On Dec 6th, 2009, the US Army Corps shut down the barriers for maintenance, and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources dumped over 2,000 gallons of a pesticide called, Rotenone. Rotenone is an odorless chemical used to cause death to fish and make them come to the surface to be easily caught. It is not harmful to humans or other animal life in the water besides fish.
The cost of the toxins was three million dollars and produced ninety tons of dead fish but not many Asian carp. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) between 1990 and 1999, there were 762 Asian carp caught. There were seven silver carp, 282 bighead carp, and 473 grass carp in the upper Mississippi region. From September 15th to the 18th, 2010, the USGS recorded sixty-nine bighead carp weighing 1,380 pounds, 116 silver carp weighing 1,292 pounds, and 150 silver carp weighing 1,950 pounds. In just three days they recorded 335 total Asian carp, compared to a decade with just 762, almost half of what they saw in three days.
In 2010, Dave Camp, a Michigan congressman, and Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow, introduced the CARP Act to Congress. The CARP Act will enhance the barriers and give the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers the right to take any land necessary to improve or expand the barrier. They were also given the authority to use by any means necessary to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. The estimated cost of the CARP Act will be more than 30 million dollars. This act is used to control all waterways in the Chicago area which will lead to the Great Lakes.
On June 22nd, 2010 an Asian carp was found near the shores of Lake Michigan. The carp was nineteen pounds and the DNA from the fish showed it got past the electrical barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship canal. On August 24th, 2010, a carp allegedly leaped out of the water and knocked out a kayaker in the Missouri River. After these situations, President Barack Obama declared John Goss, the new US Asian carp leader. The state of Michigan filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Sanitary and Ship canal to close it immediately to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes permanently.
By doing that the loss of jobs and cargo would be in the billions of dollars and cause steel and other cargo to be rerouted and found a new way to be shipped. The US Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit and took no action on any of Michigan’s claims. The most recent action taken was on September 7th, 2010 in US Federal Court in Chicago, Ill. The plaintiffs in the case are the states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. What these states want is to way to totally separate the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes. Lake Erie would suffer the greatest damage from the Asian carp because of its warm shallow areas.
Quantitative Analysis The Great Lakes contains roughly eighteen percent of the world’s freshwater. The lakes contain about 2,200 cubic miles of water and cover about 94,000 square miles. In the early 1900s, the amount of fish was the leading indicator of how the lakes were doing. According to the “Great Lakes: Atlas and Resource Book,” there was about 147 million pounds of fish inhabiting the Great Lakes. Fish began depleting from the lakes due to overfishing and the construction of dams. It was predicted that there was around 180 different species of fish in all of the Great Lakes.
The warm, shallow Lake Erie was the most active of all the lakes and while Lake Superior was the least active due to it being the deepest lake. The Great Lakes have changed over the past hundred years due to human development and activities. Native species of fish have become extinct due to overfishing and invasive species entering the lakes. Also pollution has played a big factor in the removal of some fish species. Lake Erie being the most active lake for fish, suffered the most due to industrial pollution being put into the lake. Lake Erie has “dead zones” that fish will not inhabit because the toxin level is so high.
With the threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes, the EPA and United States government is trying everything they can to prevent this from happening. If the Asian carp enter the Great Lakes without resistance they would feed on everything trout and walleye currently consume. The Asian carp will overtake the lakes by overpopulating them like they have done in the Mississippi River. The Great Lakes would offer an abundant supply of food to the bighead carp because they would eat all the zooplankton and the silver carp would eat all of the phytoplankton.
The Asian carp will also have perfect spawning grounds in the Great Lakes. The vegetated shoreline would be perfect for the carp to lay their eggs and for the young spawn to have a source of food from birth. The carp will also affect the fishing economy. The current fishing industry is worth nearly seven billion dollars and it would be a huge negative impact against that if the carp take over the lakes. Not containing the carp will have devastating impact on the Great Lakes region including the shoreline where the spawning ground will be.
Also, there were reports from Chicago that many birds have contracted toxins from the Asian carp, that study has not been confirmed but scientists are blaming the toxins the birds are ingesting are from the carp. If nothing is done, the Great Lakes in my opinion are going to be the “black eye” of the northeast United States. If the Asian carp take over the lakes, businesses will suffer by not having fresh lake perch and walleye. Americans do not see Asian carp as a fish that will be good to eat, unlike the Chinese. If the Great Lakes are affected, this could also become a problem in Canada and all the way up the St.
Lawrence Seaway. The Asian carp can survive the arctic weather all the way in Canada and can survive when the lakes are frozen over by slowing the body metabolism down. The impact of the carp would be a huge blow to the Great Lakes and would cause massive destruction to the economics of the region, just like it has all the way down the Mississippi River region. Changing the Future The improvements that can be expected from the EPA and the United States government are to close off the waterway of the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes.
The time frame is still up in the air because of legal battles in US Federal Court. Other future options that are being considered are heating up the water because the carp cannot survive in warm waters. They are also considered using giant fishing nets to try and capture as many of the Asian carp but the downfall with that idea is that some carp can jump and avoid being caught. Other ideas have been herding the fish with sounds and lights and trapping them and the ideas of explosions in the water have been brought up.
According to numerous scientist and biologist the chances of stopping these Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes is “nearly impossible. ” They say the reasoning is that Asian carp can lay millions of eggs and it would not be possible to get rid of all of them over time. The most probable solution is to close the off the waterway to the Great Lakes, because some carp have already penetrated the electrical barriers and have found other ways around by barges and humans transporting them to different parts. Currently the US Army Corps have gotten approval for a third barrier at a cost of $78. million dollars, but the government and state’s governors have been debating if it will even help and save the money to decide to take other steps to stop this invasive species from destroying one of the main economic incomes of the Great Lakes region. Secondary Impacts Secondary impacts that would affect the Asian carp are because of a tiny fish called a quagga mussel. The quagga mussel has been around in the Great Lakes for a couple decades and is very tiny and eats the plankton that some Asian carp would feed on. Researchers say that would not matter because Asian carp can adjust to different food.
But biologist and government officials say that plants and algae have been diminishing since the mussels arrived and would give the Asian carp some trouble. The mussels would not be the bad of an impact as the Asian carp because they remain small and would be eaten by salmon and trout as a good dietary supplement. Scientists worry that the large Asian carp would still eat salmon and whitefish because their size has decreased in recent years due to what they believe is malnutrition from the food chain being destroyed by other invasive species.
Charles Kerfoot, a biologist from Michigan Tech University, stated that the mussels were going to take over Lake Michigan in the next coming years and with everything that is happening we are looking at a, “genuine collapse of the third-largest freshwater lake in the world. ” The Great Lakes Fishery Commission said they hope they never see what would happen if the Asian carp enter the lakes. They state that the most important thing to focus on is prevention because, “once you let the invaders in and they spread its permanent. Humans can help the problem with Asian carp too. They ask humans not to transport wild fish from state to state, with some states making it illegal to do this. They have also told people not to throw Asian carp back into the water and to report if they caught them to the state’s Division of Wildlife. Citations/Bibliography “Asian Carp Sampling Summary for the Week of September 13th. ” 21 September 2010. Asian Carp Control. . Environmental Protection Agency. 24 March 2010. . Flesher, John. ABC News. September 2010. . Henry, Tom. Asian Carp Issue Being Heard in Court Today. ” Cleveland Plain Dealer 7 September 2010: B3. John Epifanio, Ph. D. from University of Illinois. “Asian Carp and the Health of the Great Lakes. ” Chicago, 2009. Smith, Jeff. “Can the Asian Carp Be Stopped From Destroying the Great Lakes? ” 6 May 2010. MyNorth. com. http://www. mynorth. com/My-North/April-2010/Can-the-Asian-Carp-Be-Stopped-From-Destroying-the-Great-Lakes/index. php? cparticle=4&siarticle=3#artanc Wikipedia. 27 September 2010. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Asian_carps