Report raises alert on Asian carp

01-13-2012 // Jerry Zremski

This excerpt is from BuffaloNews.com

Asian Carp

The study found that the Maumee River in Ohio is a highly suitable place for Asian carp to mature and spawn. That’s especially worrying because the Maumee shares a flood plain with the Wabash River in Indiana, where Asian carp are already spawning.

Indiana has erected a mesh barrier to keep the carp out of the Maumee, but the agency’s study found other possible breeding grounds as well. Both the Sandusky River and the Grand River in Ohio were found to be “moderately suitable” for Asian carp.

“We are getting a clearer picture of the threat Asian carps pose to western Lake Erie, and that picture suggests there is cause for concern,” said Patrick Kocovsky, USGS scientist and an author of the report.

And while the study focused on the western part of the lake, where the invading fish are most likely to enter, their introduction there would likely have a grave impact on the eastern part of the lake as well.

One of the most popular sport fish in the eastern part of the lake — the walleye — spawns in the western part of the lake and then migrates toward Buffalo.

The government report said that the walleye’s food supply would be threatened if the huge carp were to establish itself in large numbers in western Lake Erie.

The giant fish escaped from southern fish farms in the early 1990s and established a home in the Mississippi River basin.

Weighing as much as 100 pounds each and consuming up to 20 percent of their body weight in food each day, the carp gobble up the plankton at the bottom of the food chain, thereby crowding out other species.

While the study focused on how the fish could directly enter Lake Erie, scientists have long feared that they will enter via the connection between the Mississippi River basin and Lake Michigan in Chicago.

Fearing that the current electronic fish barrier in Chicago is not effective enough, environmentalists have pushed for the closure of the locks in the Chicago waterway system or other measures to build a barrier between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.

“The study confirms that if the administration and the U. S. Congress fail to confront the Asian carp crisis, there will be dire consequences for the Great Lakes, people and wildlife,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office.

“This needs to light a fire under federal public officials so that they move forward on the only permanent solution to this crisis: building a physical barrier to separate the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins to protect our economy, environment and way of life,” Buchsbaum added.

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