News / USA

Invasive Asian Carp Threaten Ecosystems in Midwestern Waterways

Asian Carp jumping in the Illinois River, where they are overtaking the native fish
Asian Carp jumping in the Illinois River, where they are overtaking the native fish

Asian Carp now outnumber native fish in many areas of the United States and their expansion particularly threatens the fragile ecosystems of the Great Lakes.

In an effort to control algae growth, catfish farmers in the southern United States introduced Asian Carp - a species of fish found in China - into their ponds in the 1970s.  Flooding throughout the last several decades washed the fish out of those ponds into other waterways.  Gradually, the species multiplied and spread north along major rivers such as the Mississippi and the Illinois.  

Anywhere else in the world, this would be a fisherman's dream, rivers so abundant with fish they jump out of the water, and often right into the boat.  But these are not the kind of fish that get anglers in the United States excited.  They are known as Asian Carp and the explosion of their population in the Illinois River is a concern to large-river ecologist Kevin Irons.

"They compete with every other fish that's in our water," said Irons.  Irons is part of a team with the Illinois Natural History Survey, which is spearheading an effort to kill or contain Asian Carp before they reach Lake Michigan.  The group routinely patrols the Illinois River near Havana - searching for Asian Carp, which are not hard to find.  To understand where and how much the invasive species is spreading, Irons and his crew use a method known as electro fishing to stun the Asian Carp so they can be captured and counted.

"There's as many as 4,100 adult silver carp per mile here on the middle Illinois River," said Irons.  "So they very quickly turn into about 13 tons per mile, and when you look at an eighty mile [129 kilometer] reach, it's phenomenal how much bio mass is taken up by these Asian Carp."

There are two types of Asian Carp in the Illinois River - bighead and silver.  Both eat the same food as other - native - fish, such as catfish and buffalo.  Asian Carp can weigh up to 45 kilograms each, and eat up to half their body weight in food per day.

Gradually, Asian Carp edge out the other native species in the river until they are one of the only kinds of fish left.  It is catastrophic to the natural ecosystem, and a problem for the fishing industry in the U.S., which looks at Asian Carp as an undesirable fish to eat.

"Americans in general don't like a bony fish," said Irons.  "The rest of the world eats silver carp, they're actually the most cultured fish in the world.  And they're overfished almost everywhere because they are so desired for human consumption."

With no natural predator in the water, and almost no domestic market to sell them as food, Asian Carp threaten to expand into waterways through the city of Chicago, and into Lake Michigan, about 320 kilometers northwest of Havana.

"This is where we decided to draw the battle lines," said John Rogner, the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  "We have an electrical barrier in place that we are confident will keep them from moving en masse into the Great Lakes.  And then our job is to put out the brush fires so to speak.  The fish that, for one reason or another, that found their way past the barrier, we suppressed them and try to take them out of the system to keep them from establishing in Lake Michigan."

In June, a bighead Asian Carp was found above the electrical barrier about ten kilometers from Lake Michigan.  The discovery raised the level of concern that the invasive species was closer to Lake Michigan than previously thought.  But the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is confident their containment measures are working, as they have yet to find more Asian carp above the electric barrier.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs