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Entries in Mississippi River (39)


Carp Are Doing Damage Even When You Don't See Them

These bighead carp were damaging a Missouri pond without the owner even knowing they were there. USGS photo.

The Journal Sentinel offers an in-depth look about the search for techniques to track Asian carp. But first, it presents this anecdote that typifies damage that invasive species can cause with little or no realization of what’s going on:

A fish pond in Missouri reveals just how stealthy Asian carp can be.

Maybe an acre in size, the pond had been stocked with catfish, bass and bluegills. The owner was pumping it full of fish food, yet the fish appeared to be starving. So in early 2010 the owner called in a consultant. 

"They came out with electrofishing gear, caught some fish and looked at them," said Duane Chapman, one of the country's leading Asian carp experts and a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "The fish were emaciated and he didn't know why. He said, 'There's something wrong here. We need to start over again.' They brought in rotenone and completely killed the pond."

Over the next week, the rotting carcasses of about 300 bighead carp surfaced. The smallest were 20 pounds. The big ones were a border collie-sized 35 pounds. Poisoned Asian carp, Chapman explained, are different from many fish species in that they typically don't surface unless the water is warm enough for gases to build up in their bellies, a process that can take a week.

"It was quite amazing there could be that much poundage in one small pond," Chapman said.

It turned out that a decade earlier the previous property owner had stocked the pond with bighead. They had flourished right under the nose of the new owner, who had smelled trouble - but couldn't see a thing.

I found the story especially interesting because grass carp --- illegally introduced by lakefront property owners who should be arrested --- have done the same thing to the small lake behind my house. Those carp, most of them 20 pounds and more, make up the majority of the biomass.

And just as an acre of land can grow only so many bushels of corn, a lake can sustain only so many pounds of fish. As a result, the bass and catfish in my little lake grow slowly, if at all, with the bulk of the bass being 12 inches or less.

Will what has happened in that pond and my lake also occur if/when Asian carp move into the Great Lakes?

Do we really want to wait and see what happens, endangering a billion-dollar sport fishery? The time is long past due to close the manmade connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. Right now, it provides an open door for invasive species to migrate from one system to another.


Carp Threat Spreads East

Asian carp aren’t migrating only north and west, threatening the Great Lakes and inland waters in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

They’ve also moving east, via the Ohio River system. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports that they invaders are reproducing in Kentucky’s Markland Pool, “almost midway between the Mississippi and Pittsburgh’s Point.”

Read the full story here.


Carp Threat Intensifies as President Plays Politics 

Bighead and silver carp populations dominate rivers in the Mississippi River basin. Will they do the same to the Great Lakes because elected officials failed to act?

DNA from Asian carp recently was confirmed in Lake Erie for the first time. Just as disturbing, though, is that the number of samples testing positive in the Chicago canal system also spiked, meaning that the likelihood increases that the exotic fish are in or about to enter Lake Michigan.

The future of a multi-billion-dollar sport fishery lies in the balance, as does the economic welfare of U.S. and Canadian communities all around the Great Lakes.

In response, our federal government will expedite its study of the problem. Meanwhile, a pathway --- the canal system that connects Lake Michigan to the Illinois River --- remains open for carp to enter the Great Lakes and for an estimated 185 species of exotics to migrate out of the Great Lakes and into the river, which is a part of the massive Mississippi River basin.

But, hey, we shouldn’t worry about it. The feds are “studying” the situation.

This editorial from The Cleveland Plain Dealer does a great job of assessing the situation. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“The latest nonevent in President Barack Obama's attempt to buy time while failing to act to stop the threatened Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes was his administration's announcement Tuesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would expedite its action plan.”

“This week's announcement seems more like an election-year ploy to mollify critics furious over Obama's failure to recognize the gravity of the carp threat. These plankton predators are in the Chicago Area Waterway System that connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. Without urgent action, it is only a matter of time until they lay waste to the Great Lakes' multibillion-dollar commercial and sports fishing industry and the 800,000 jobs it supports.”


Asian Carp Using New Route to Threaten Minnesota Fisheries

Minnesotans are justifiably concerned about Asian carp migrating into their inland fisheries from the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

And now these exotic fish seem to have found a new invasion route --- a back door if you will.

Flooding along the Missouri River last year allowed the carp entry into many new waters, including Iowa’s Great Lakes, in the northwestern portion of that state. Those fisheries connect with lakes and streams in southwestern Minnesota.

“We view it as a big threat. These fish don’t recognize political boundaries,” said Ryan Doorenbos of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Read the full story here.


We Continue to Watch as Carp Move Closer to Destroying Sport Fisheries

You can tell your grandchildren that we watched as Asian carp destroyed many of our sport fisheries because of inaction and/or incompetence by management agencies and government  officials.

The latest visual (photo above) comes from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and was published in the Star Tribune. From left, a grass carp, a silver carp, and a bighead carp were taken by commercial fishermen on March 1 in the Mississippi River near Winona.

Grass carp have been in Minnesota waters for years, as they have been across the country. But silver and bighead are migrating steadily northward and eventually will move into some of the state’s prime sport fisheries if they are not stopped.

They also seem destined to enter the Great Lakes, probably through the manmade connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin. Once established  in those waters, they could destroy a $7 billion recreational fishery.

"A silver carp discovery this far upstream is discouraging, but not surprising," said  Minnesota DNR’s Tim Schlagenhaft about the March 1 discovery . "This is further evidence that Asian carp continue to move upstream in the Mississippi River."

Read more here.

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