News / USA

Scientists, Lawmakers Declare War on Invasive Leaping Fish

This December 2009 photo shows Illinois River silver carp jumping out of the water after being disturbed by the sounds of watercraft.
This December 2009 photo shows Illinois River silver carp jumping out of the water after being disturbed by the sounds of watercraft.
TEXT SIZE - +
For about two decades, several species of fish commonly known as Asian carp have been swimming up the Mississippi River. The non-native fish, imported to help control algae in commercial fish farms, have been gobbling up food native fish need to survive. The U.S. government is spending millions to keep these invasive species from migrating through Chicago to the Great Lakes. And now the battle has spread north to Minnesota. However, critics say an all-out war on the Asian carp could be expensive and biologically unsound.

Tales of 14-kilogram fish leaping into boats and injuring anglers would probably be just a myth if it weren't for YouTube, the online site where fisherman have posted dozens of “flying Asian carp” videos, and a slew of TV news reports.

While you might expect sport fishers would be delighted to have their catch literally jumping into their boats, it is actually the last thing anglers in Minnesota want. They're worried by the news that commercial fishermen caught Asian carp in the Mississippi River, in southeastern Minnesota, this past March. In April, another turned up in a tributary nearby.

"To me, it's surprising we haven't seen more," says fisheries biologist Peter Sorensen from the University of Minnesota. 
Click on map to enlargeClick on map to enlarge
x
Click on map to enlarge
Click on map to enlarge

According to Sorensen, there are millions of Asian carp just downstream in Iowa. Some can top 45 kilograms. They’re big eaters and compete with native fish for food, which is why Sorensen he has declared war on Asian carp.

"I've been to areas of the world where there's not much but invasive species, and it's pretty pathetic," he says. "And I think that's really tragic."  

But scientists still know very little about how Asian carp move and reproduce. At his lab, Sorensen has several huge tanks full of the fish. He hopes to find a way to interrupt their sense of smell or spawning patterns, anything to keep them from migrating and breeding. But in the meantime, he says it's vital to prevent the fish from spreading farther north.  

Sorensen fears Asian carp will move into Minnesota’s famed 10,000 lakes region and decimate native fish. He says the best way to slow Asian carp is to close the northern end of the Mississippi River to boat traffic.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced a measure in Congress that would allow a lock in Minneapolis to be shut down if just one adult Asian carp is found nearby. The Minnesota lawmaker says the fish are a major threat to her state’s tourism industry, which relies heavily on sport fishing.

"These fish are a menace, and it's critical that we take quick and decisive action," Klobuchar says. "We always love in Minnesota to be known as the state of 10,000 lakes. We don't want to be known as the state of 50,000 carp."

However, the lock-closure plan has its critics. Industrial users say banning barges would mean more trucks on the road. And Greg Breining - a journalist and author of several books on nature and the environment - says drastic steps to eliminate the fish could be expensive and futile.

"I think it's worth some research and some study," Breining says. "But to declare war on invasives opens up a big money pit."

Breining says control efforts - whether installing electric barriers, introducing predators or closing rivers - could wind up doing more harm than good. And he says the war rhetoric reinforces the myth that humans can control nature.  

"It's just not very effective," he says. "It's like a war on terrorism or a war on drugs. It's just a way to spend a lot of money to no particularly beneficial end."

Biologist Mark Davis at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, agrees. He says scientists and policymakers need to be skeptical of worst-case-scenarios. Davis concedes there could be a lot at stake with Asian carp. But he says the research is far from conclusive.

"Are they really going to devastate the fisheries? Are they really going to drive some of these species to extinction or near-extinction? In most cases, the new species come in and actually add to biodiversity, because they usually do not drive the native species to extinction," Davis says.

In the Illinois River, another place where silver carp are jumping into boats, native fish appear to be surviving. However, a local biologist says the natives are smaller than they used to be, indicating they are competing less successfully for food. But so far, Asian carp have not killed them off.

In Chicago, electric barriers are in place to keep the fish out of Lake Michigan. And officials are also trying something more low-tech: letting commercial fishermen haul off boatloads of them for sale in Asia. It's a thriving business.

When Asian carp were first imported decades ago, few foresaw their environmental impact. Today, critics say those hoping to eradicate Asian carp could learn from that experience, and consider the costs and unintended consequences of their campaign.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: boss from: the hills
May 28, 2012 12:01 AM
an easy way to take care of them would be to put netting on the boats and just keep driving up and down the creek. those dumb fish will jump into the nets and have a fish fry.


by: Fisherman from: Ohio
May 26, 2012 9:51 PM
Yea there is some money to be made here I think. Also would make good fertilizer for farming...

I would simply think of it as a free resource for whatever the heck you want.

Take advantage of these offerings and they will thin out in these waters I would think.


by: Mark Mayfield from: Nashville, TN USA
May 25, 2012 9:22 PM
Allow mass unlimited fishing of the Asian carp both privately and commercially.

Within a couple years, it would eradicated from our waters.


by: CptNerd from: Alexandria VA
May 25, 2012 5:19 PM
Two words: Eat them! Or, barring that, fivewords: catch them and export them! These fish are highly sought after, especially in China where they are having a hard time raising them due to pollution in their rivers. One high-ranking person in China said it's a shame that we have so many of these and their so large, and they can't even raise them in China like this anymore.

There's money to be made here!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid