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« Getting the Lead Out Not Necessary, But Still a Good Idea | Main | The Ghosts of Salmon Past »

It's not a Carp Problem; It's a Government Problem


President Obama has just signed into law a ban on the importation of bighead carp into the United States. Isn't that nice?

When Congress passed the bill in late November, Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, said this: 

  “Along with other invasive Asian carp species, the bighead carp poses an immediate and significant threat to the nation’s freshwater fisheries, especially the Great Lakes. While normally we would list an injurious species under administrative rulemaking, the urgency of the situation called for swift action by Congress so that we can prevent this voracious fish from spreading to new areas and overwhelming recreational and commercial fisheries by effectively starving native fish.”

And, under the Lacey Act, silver carp were likewise banned in 2007.

The problem is that both species have been firmly entrenched in U.S. waters since the 1980s. And by the late 1990s, they were crowding out native species throughout the Mississippi River drainage. 

Today, they've either moved into the Great Lakes, or are about to. If they don't destroy the billion-dollar sport fishery there, it won't be because of any meaningful action by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the rest of the federal government, electric barrier notwithstanding. It will be because  Asian carp did not find the Great Lakes to their liking.

As with so much many other "actions" the government takes on our behalf, this ban on bighead carp is more about appearance than it is reality. The same goes for the appointment of a "carp czar" by the President.

Along with all of the other invasive carp species --- silver, grass, common, and black --- bighead are here to stay. They will crowd our waters, they will out-compete native fishes for food, and they will alter our ecosystems in ways that, right now, we can't even imagine.

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