In a classic “stuff the toothpaste back in the tube” move, the federal government announced Wednesday that water guns and pheromones are some of the methods being investigated to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
Also included in the President’s 2013 Asian carp control plan were an improved electrical barrier between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system and new chemical agents that can stun or kill the invasive carp (along with everything else in the dispersal areas).
Accidentally released from flooded aquaculture ponds in the South, silver and bighead carp have been slowly moving up the Mississippi and its branches. During this migration, these filter feeders have disrupted native populations through swinish consumption of all available plankton, which upsets the base levels of aquatic ecosystems. Combined with high reproduction rates, these large invaders have been crowding native species out of their habitats for decades. Now, these fish are sitting on the doorstep of the Great Lakes – the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.
If enough carp pass through the canal barriers (i.e. numbers large enough to establish a population), they can represent a major threat to the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry. Many fisheries biologists believe that if carp haven’t already gotten through the canal, it’s only a matter of time until they do.
Some details of the latest plan from federal agencies charged with preventing invasive carp from passing through the canal include:
- Creating a mobile electrical barrier for use in the Chicago Waterway System as a temporary or emergency measure – this would supplement the existing electrical barrier that is in need of repair or replacement.
- Developing and testing items such as water guns or netting or chemical lures and toxins for capturing and killing fish. This is probably a case of too little, too late. Chemical treatment has been shown to kill ALL species in the area of use. Development and testing of these methods needed to occur 20 years ago, long before carp were present on the other side of the canal.
- Increasing international cooperation to prevent invasive species from being transported through borders. (It’s my firm belief that the horse has fled the barn on this one.) Let’s stop wasting our time on international cooperation when it comes to these fish. Effort should be concentrated on containment and extermination, if possible.
“This strategy continues our aggressive effort to bolster our tools to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes while we work toward a long term solution,” said John Goss, Asian carp director for the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, in a statement released Wednesday.
“The 2013 Framework will strengthen our defenses against Asian carp and move innovative carp control projects from research to field trial to implementation.” Goss did not elaborate whether or not the Asian carp could read, or how they would be presented with copies of the Framework.
Michigan officials are concerned with delays in addressing some issues — particularly the completion of a key U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study — that may allow the invasive species to gain a foothold in the lakes.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow released a statement Wednesday that read: “It’s encouraging that the administration says the Army Corps will complete its report on permanently stopping Asian carp by the end of 2013. …However, it is critically important that this report not only be done on time but also be done right, with fully-developed plans for separating the Great Lakes from the carp’s entry points to stop Asian carp once and for all.”
Sadly, it’s entirely possible that these large invaders have already made it into the Great Lakes. If that is the case, the most useful way to control them may be a bounty system. This would allow anglers to receive cash in exchange for any silver or bighead carp caught and turned into the DNR. Only time will tell the story of these invasive fish in the Great Lakes. However, the lack of urgency shown by the agencies responsible is tilting the balance in favor of the invasive species.