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.
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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs