Tonawanda News

March 21, 2013

Senate OKs bill to curb Asian carp

Staff reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Senate has authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to take emergency action should invasive Asian carp enter the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Wednesday that the plan would authorize engineers to bolster electrical or other barriers now installed on Chicago waterways and in the Mississippi River Basin, if evidence is found that the fish have spread.

The large, resource-consuming species has already wreaked havoc on waterways in that area with billions in damage over the last several decades, though more proactive measures have stalled in Washington to stem the spread of the species.

Asian carp are large, prolific and consume vast amounts of food. They can weigh up to 100 pounds and grow to as much as four feet in length. The fish are known for disrupting the food chain due to their large size, ravenous appetites and rapid rate of reproduction.

Environmental officials in New York worry the species, if allowed to spread to Lake Erie, could destroy fish populations, devastate a $7 billion recreational fishing industry and the general economic well-being of the entire region. 

“The health of the Great Lakes, and all of our waterways, ports and harbors are key to the health of our economy, and the health of our families,” Gillibrand said. “The spread of Asian carp must be stopped before permanently disturbing the natural ecosystem. And we need to make key investments to strengthen our local ports and harbors so we are making the most of their potential to attract businesses and support new jobs, and grow our economy.”

After years of the threat of Asian Carp entering the Great Lakes, legislative efforts have fallen short, she said.

Current efforts to control the spread of Asian carp include two electrical barriers where the Mississippi River links to the Great Lakes. However, Gillibrand said there is evidence indicating the fish may have migrated past the obstructions. DNA evidence collected from waterways implies the species may now be as close as 6 miles from Lake Michigan, 20 miles closer than previously thought. 

“The invasion of Asian carp into Lake Michigan is significant, since at that point they will have the ability to migrate to all of the Great Lakes,” a statement from Gillibrand reads.