Battling the Asian Carp

Issues: Environment

The invasive Asian carp pose a clear and present danger to the Great Lakes.  If the carp succeed in becoming established in the Great Lakes, they will decimate our region’s $7 billion fishery and put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.  I have been doing everything I can to prevent this from happening.

I have met with high-ranking officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Fish and Wildlife Service to urge them to redouble their efforts to combat the carp.  I have also worked with the Michigan congressional delegation to make sure that whatever financial resources are needed to fight the Asian carp are available.

For many of us in the Michigan Delegation, the battle against the Asian carp has been going on for years.  Bighead carp were first brought to the United States in the 1970s to control algae in aquaculture ponds.  Unfortunately, bighead carp and other harmful species of non-native fish were released into the Mississippi River in the early 1990s during flooding.  Since then, the Asian carp have established themselves in the Mississippi River system and made their way north.
The most important thing to know is that the Asian carp have a number of potential pathways to reach the Great Lakes, so there is not a single “silver bullet” solution.  We need a robust and layered defense.  The federal government is working with Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and other stakeholders to prevent the carp from getting through.

In 2002, at the direction of Congress, the first electric barrier was set up in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in Illinois to deter Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.  Since then, we’ve built two additional much more powerful electric barriers.  We’ve also set up a number of other barriers to prevent the carp from reaching Lake Michigan when nearby rivers flood.  We’re using fishermen and electro-fishing to thin out carp populations in the Illinois River and have made arrangements to export 30 million pounds of carp a year to China.
Along with many of my colleagues in the Michigan Delegation, I have urged the Corps of Engineers to conduct an expedited study to determine how to permanently separate the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Basin in order to prevent the spread of the Asian carp and other invasive species.  This study has now been released ans we need to move forward with implementation.

(Updated May 7, 2014)