By MATT FURST
Capital News Service
LANSING — The Great Lakes may soon have a new uninvited guest.
Asian carp are steadily approaching the Great Lakes as they swim up the Mississippi River, Dave Ladd, director of the state Office of the Great Lakes, told a Senate Hunting, Fishing and Forestry Committee meeting.
“These fish are only 30 miles away from our borders and they’re headed our way,” Ladd said. “Their impact could be catastrophic.”
The Asian carp eat zooplankton, which all fish consume in their early stages of life, so they have the potential to impact every species of fish in the Great Lakes, Ladd explained. He said that means fish in the lakes will have a new competitor that could possibly displace them.
Ladd said that the carp grow to weigh more than 100 pounds and can jump up to eight feet out of the water. There are also several species of Asian carp. The two types migrating toward the Great Lakes are the bighead and silver carp. The carp don’t only pose a physical threat to other fish, though, he said. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife worker was injured by one of these carp when it leapt out of the water and hit him, Ladd said.
“Imagine riding a Jet Ski and having one of these fish jump out at you,” Ladd said.
Sen. William Van Regenmorter, R-Hudsonville, expressed his concern for the possible invasion. He said that foreign species should be prevented from entering into the Great Lakes.
The Lakes are precious bodies of fresh water and there needs to be a way to protect them from invaders, Van Regenmorter said.
Fortunately, some precautions have been put in place. An electric barrier placed in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal may stop the carp from entering Lake Michigan, said Jason Dinsmore, Michigan United Conservation Clubs resource policy assistant.
“The weirs have worked pretty well in deterring the advancement of sea lampreys in the past,” Dinsmore said.
Dinsmore did agree with Ladd, though. “The invasion of the carp could be devastating,” said Dinsmore.
The carp could already be in the Great Lakes, though, said Todd Grischke, Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist.
“The weirs do work pretty well, but the fish can be transported in many different ways,” Grischke said. “Eggs can even be transported by birds and turtles.”
Grischke said that preventing the carp from entering the Great Lakes looks doubtful. “I think it’s inevitable,” Grischke said. “We haven’t been very successful in the past from stopping the entry of exotic species into the Lakes.”
Ladd said that the carp were used in Southern catfish ponds and escaped into the Mississippi River system, where they have thrived.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By MATT FURST