National Wildlife Federation Applauds Action to Keep Asian Carp Out of Great Lakes

News that non-native Asian carp have breached a protective barrier spark action to prevent monster fish from invading Great Lakes and causing environmental, economic harm.

12-04-2009 // Jeff Alexander

The National Wildlife Federation today praised the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for taking action to keep the non-native Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.

Asian carp pose a threat to people and wildlife. The fish can grow upwards of 100 pounds and consume vast amounts of food that native fish need to thrive. The fish startle easily and leap out of the water at the sound of boat motors—at times injuring people.

The Illinois DNR eradicated fish along a six-mile stretch of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship canal in Lockport, Ill., to preventing two species of Asian carp — the bighead and silver carp — from sneaking into Lake Michigan and colonizing the Great Lakes.

“As a the nation’s premier wildlife conservation organization, the last thing the National Wildlife Federation wants to see is dead fish, even in a sewer canal,” said Andy Buchsbaum, NWF’s Great Lakes regional executive director. “But in this case, the Illinois DNR showed strong leadership and commitment in doing a very difficult job. Without their successful handling of this operation, the Great Lakes would be devastated by these monster carp.”

Invaders threaten native fish, boaters

Asian carp were imported to the United States in the 1960s to reduce algae in commercial fish farms in Arkansas. Floods allowed the invaders to spread into the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and migrate toward Lake Michigan through artificial canals.

If Asian carp invade the Great Lakes, they would compete for food with desirable fish species, threatening the lakes’ $7 billion fishery. Silver carp, which leap out of the water when agitated by boat motors, would pose potentially lethal safety threats to boaters.

The Illinois DNR used rotenone, a plant-based toxin that only affects gill-breathing organisms and is not harmful to wildlife or humans, to kill fish in the canal. The fish kill will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct maintenance on an electric fence built to keep Asian carp from invading Lake Michigan via the canal.

One dead Asian carp raises concerns

Although only one Asian carp was found on the surface of the canal after the rotenone treatment, studies have found that the invasive fish usually sink to the bottom when killed.

“Finding even one Asian carp near the electric fence is cause for concern — it shows that we must now wage an all out war to keep these invaders out of the Great Lakes,” Buchsbaum said.

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