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Asian Carp Report Highlights Urgent Need to Save the Great Lakes from Invasion

EcoWatch

Asian Carp in the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago. Photo by Kate Gardiner via Flickr.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada released a binational risk assessment of Asian carp today detailing the potential threat an invasion imposes on the Great Lakes. The conclusions point to a severe disruption of established ecosystems and re-emphasize an urgency for the federal government to act quickly to mitigate the threat, which thus far it has not.

“This report confirms that the stakes are too high for failure,” said Jennifer Nalbone, director of Navigation and Invasive Species for Great Lakes United. “If Asian carp invade, Canadian and U.S. waters will be changed forever.”

“Both countries must support and implement the best protection from an invasion and break the artificial connection between the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins in the Chicago area,” said Nalbone. “If water doesn’t flow between the two watersheds, this damaging fish can’t swim in.”

“The report underscores the severity of the Asian carp threat and the need for leadership so that we can solve the problem once and for all,” said Andy Buchsbaum, director of National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office. “The Asian carp are moving toward the Great Lakes far faster than the government response, and this report shows that the cost of inaction will be devastating. President Obama and Gov. Romney need to declare that they will take the necessary action to build an effective physical barrier to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes," he said.

Some of the report's key findings include (from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website):

  • The most likely entry point into the Great Lakes basin is the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) into Lake Michigan. The effectiveness of the electrical barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) was not evaluated. Nevertheless, the complex nature of the CAWS and proximity of bigheaded carp populations led to the conclusion this is the most likely entry point.
  • Once bigheaded carps have gained entry into the basin, they are expected to spread to other lakes within 20 years. The spread will be more rapid for lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie, and potentially Lake Superior; longer for Lake Ontario.
  • Bigheaded carps would find suitable food and thermal and spawning habitats in the Great Lakes basin that would allow them to survive and become established. The areas that would be attractive and favorable are Lake Erie, including Lake St. Clair, and high productivity embayments of lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Ontario.
  • There is a greater than 50 percent probability of successful mating each year with very few (< 10) adult females (and a similar number of adult males) within the basin of a Great Lake.
  • Population growth is most sensitive to the survivorship of juveniles.
  • The consequences of an established bigheaded carp population are expected to include changes in planktonic communities, reduction in planktivore biomass, reduced recruitment of fishes with early pelagic life stages and reduced stocks of piscivores.
  • To reduce the probability of introduction (either at the arrival, survival, establishment or spread stage) and delay or reduce subsequent ecological consequences, immediate prevention activities would be most effective, especially in conjunction with population management activities at the invasion front.

Visit EcoWatch's BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

 

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