Wanted: long-term solution to keep Asian carp at bay


The hardiness and adaptability of Asian carp is testing researchers trying to come up with ways to prevent the invasive species from taking over large portions of Lake Michigan.

The latest study led by University of Michigan researchers found that despite a drop-off in plankton, a food source bighead and silver carp typically feed on, there’s plenty of other food in the lake to sustain the fish.

“Our study indicates that the carp can survive and grow in much larger areas of the lake than previous studies suggested,” said Peter Alsip, the lead author of the study published in the journal Freshwater Biology.

The carp, which have a voracious appetite and can devour up to 40 percent of their body weight in plankton every day, have shown a willingness to feed on other organic material in the lakes, including excrement from zebra mussels that have coated large portions of the bottom of Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes.

Officials have been debating for years how to keep the carp out of Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, where fishing is a $7 billion industry, because they compete with native fish for food and habitat.

Over the years, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent studying and fighting the Asian carp threat. This year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed equipping a dam near Joliet, Illinios, with noisemakers, electric barriers and other deterrents at a cost of at least $778 million.

Despite all the efforts, the species’ march toward Lake Michigan has continued. In fact, they have become the primary fish species in the Illinois River, which is part of an aquatic pathway that leads to Lake Michigan.

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton and Indiana Sen. Todd Young have both fought against cuts to an EPA initiative to clean up the Great Lakes. Upton and Young and others in the Michigan delegation must keep up their fight.

The Great Lakes are one of this country’s greatest natural resources and their environmental health must be maintained. Congress must come up with a long-term plan to keep this invasive fish out of Lake Michigan or risk crippling an industry critical to several states’ economies.

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