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Asian Carp Controversy

Asian Carp Controversy

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Published by Jessica Moldofsky

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Published by: Jessica Moldofsky on Apr 24, 2012
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02/05/2014

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 Asian Carp Controversy
Jessica S. Moldofsky
Executive Summary:
 
Overview:The Asian Carp, an invasive species that is taking over US waters, is posing amonumental threat to industry and the environment alike. The Asian Carp is made up of twospecies, the Bighead (
 Hypothalmichthys nobilis
) and Silver Carp (
 H. molitrix
) and can grow upto 100 pounds
(1)
. The fish are fast breeding and hardy, and are spreading from lakes to riversacross the United States at an alarming rate, despite measures to halt the invasion. This speciesoriginated in Asia and was brought the United States for use in the fish market and to keepaquaculture facilities clean
(3)
. It is predicted the carp escaped their facilities around 1970 duringmassive floods that allowed the fish to infiltrate native waters. The most recent advancementincludes the species in the Illinois River, which connects the Mississippi River to LakeMichigan. The greatest threat that these fish currently posses is the potential collapse of theecosystem in the Great Lakes region if the fish get into these waters. The species is classified asa nuisance species due to its destructive habits.
It could be compared to “the locust of the sea.”
 The Asian carp have destructive effects on their environment that would not naturallyoccur. They are capable of consuming up to 20% of their body weight daily and their dietoverlaps with that of native fish in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Today, commercialfishermen in the Illinois River regularly catch up to 25,000 pounds of bighead and silver carp perday. The commercial value of this species is very low, especially compared to the value of thenative species it could replace. The carp consumes plankton and other small microorganisms,
 
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which are the backbone to the aquatic food pyramid. If the carp undermine this tropic structure,the ecosystem could fall and many species of aquatic life could simply disappear. The Great
Lakes‟ economy is reliant on the fishing industry as well as resultant tourism industry. If the
carp were to take over the waters, it is estimated that $7 billion annually could be lost in revenueto this area. The carp also poses a threat to humans- they are known to jump up to 10 feet in theair when startled. Due their massive size, boaters, water skiers and fisherman alike are at risk of physical injury if they were to be hit by a flying carp, which has been known to happen.
(4)
Figure 1. Jumping carp
(8)
Legal Framework:
Current Measures:Currently, there have been measures implemented to halt the advancement of the carp,however none of these measures have proven entirely effective. Due to the destructive habits of this species, the US Fish and Wildlife Service worked with stakeholders to develop a plan formanagement of the carp. The National Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force accepted the planin the fall of 2007. In July of 2007, Silver carp were declared by the U.S. Department of theInterior, under the Lacey Act, as an invasive spec
ies. This act combats trafficking of “illegal”
 
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wildlife, fish, and plants
(2)
. An amendment to this act, in July of 2009, was the Asian CarpPrevention and Control Act. This act was implemented as Public Law and signed by Congress toadd the Bighead Carp, of the species Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, to the list of destructivespecies that are prohibited from being imported into the United States
(7)
.One of the greatest efforts to date to halt the fish movement was put in place in 2002 bythe US Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA became concerned as well with the possible effectsof the carp on the Great Lakes, so an electric barrier was installed in the Chicago Sanitary ShipCanal, the only known aquatic link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River drainagebasins. Once the effects of this barrier were proven effective, a second electric barrier wasimplemented in 2004. In 2010, U.S. Representative Dave Camp fromMichigan's 4th districtandSenatorDebbie Stabenowfrom Michigan introduced the CARP ACT (Close All Routes andPrevent Asian Carp Today). This act was implemented to direct the Army Corps of Engineers totake action to prevent Asian Carp from entering theGreat Lakes.It was estimated in 2010 that it
could cost more than $30 million in prevention. The act was aimed to ensure that O‟Brien Lock 
and Dam and the Chicago Controlling Works remained closed until a better strategy wasdeveloped. The act also gave authority to the Army Corps of Engineers to obtain any necessaryreal estate for the construction and maintenance of the electric barriers. The act also gaveauthority to the Corps to utilize fish toxicants, commercial fishing and netting, and harvesting of the carp to prevent the spread.
(4)
Another effort has included the use of Rotenone into the canal.This natural toxin inhibits the uptake of oxygen into the gills and will kill all aquatic species withno harm to humans. Other efforts have included education the public on the matter andencouraging the public to consume more carp. The fish is tasty to eat and abundant to catch.

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