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Groundbreaking Study Says Asian Carp Could Make Up One-Third of Lake Erie Biomass

By Padma Nagappan

Lake Erie is bountiful in highly prized walleye and rainbow trout. But populations of these commercially important fish could plummet if Asian carp manage to invade the lake, according to a new report.

In the groundbreaking study, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Notre Dame found that carp, which are moving at a rapid pace toward the Great Lakes, could make up one-third of all fish in Lake Erie by weight within 20 years if the invasive species overcomes efforts to keep it at bay.

Voracious eaters, Asian carp feed on plankton, which are tiny organisms which form the basis of the food web. Small fish that live in Lake Erie—the emerald shiner, gizzard shad and rainbow smelt—also feed on plankton and their numbers could fall dramatically if they have to compete with carp for food, according to the study. This would hurt the commercially valuable walleye, which eat the smaller fish.

Two Asian carp species found in the U.S.—the bighead carp and silver carp—have reached watersheds near the Great Lakes. In October 2015, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists discovered that silver carp had advanced a record 12 miles up the Illinois River in just one month, traveling 66 miles toward Lake Michigan since the beginning of 2015.

“Back in the 1970s, the carp were introduced purposely to clear out catfish farms in some ponds in Arkansas," Ed Rutherford, coauthor of the study and a fisheries biologist with the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, said. “They escaped from there during some flooding and made their way into the watershed of the Mississippi and are now very abundant in the Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers."

The carp now make up about 80 percent, by weight, of all the fish in those rivers, he said, but computer modeling study shows that the potential impact on Lake Erie would not be as extreme.

“That's because Lake Erie has more potential predators for young Asian carp than in those rivers," Rutherford said.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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