Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What to Expect When Asian Carp Invade Lake Erie, by Dan Romeiser

In the early 1970’s the Asian carp were transported to the United States to help regulate wastewater treatment facilities to keep them clean from any growth that may occur. Due to flooding in the southern states in the 1990’s, the Asian carp were able to escape from these disconnected areas and were introduced to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois rivers (You Are Here DNR Fishing). Since then, these fishes have been destructive to the ecosystem and cause negative repercussions to these water systems. The Asian carp could create ecological, economic, and human concerns if introduced into the Lake Erie. To mitigate these results from spreading, many measures have been implemented between different bodies of water to prevent the spread of the Asian carp.  
The invasive “Asian Carp” group consists of bighead carp, black carp, grass carp, silver carp, and large-scale silver carp. These species are known as filter feeders, which primarily have a diet of plankton that consist of microscopic plants and animals (You Are Here DNR Fishing). These fishes are able to weigh around thirty to forty pounds and can eat 5 to 20 percent of their body weight everyday (Asian Carp Response). These fish could have a negative impact on an ecosystem like lake Erie could disturb the local ecology. Their consumption of the plankton can and has wiped out a very imperative step of the food web that is needed for small fishes and other native fish. While the Asian carp is an invasive group, some say that their filter feeding could actually increase other species of fishes in the lake (Zhang et al). The University of Michigan released a study that stated that if the Asian carp were introduced than there would be a decrease in walleye, rainbow trout, gizzard shad and emerald shiners, but there would be an increase of small mouth bass, upwards of 16% (Zhang et al).  
Diagnostic characteristics of Bighead Carp and Silver Carp.   Source AsianCarp.ca
The Great Lake states heavily rely on the fishing industry and if the Asian carp are introduced, there could be a great financial burden placed on local fisheries, travel and tourism companies, and restaurants. Around 65 million pounds of fish are pulled out of the great lakes each year (About Our Great Lakes: Economy). This seven billion dollar industry relies on the 250 species of fishes that include whitefish, walleye, salmon, lake trout, and bass.  The lakes also pull in around four billion dollars in the sports fishing industry, recreation, and tourism. If the Asian carp were introduced to Lake Erie, the great lakes communities could see a decrease in annual income (About Our Great Lakes: Economy). Silver carp and bighead carp are also known for their ability to leap out of the water.  In the Illinois River, these carp will jump out of the water when motorboats disturb them. When the forty-pound fish jump they can do tremendous damage to boats and even cause harm to people (You Are Here DNR Fishing). While this could be humorous at first, it is a huge safety concern. 
Different proposals have been discussed to prevent the introduction of the Asian carp into the Great lakes. One of these is the use of hydrologic separation between the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and Chicago waterways. The hydrologic system is estimated to keep 95-100 percent of the Asian carp out of the great lakes. This system seams great but it would come with an $18 billion price tag and take upwards of twenty-five years to complete. Another, less expensive option would be to use an electric barrier (Foley 2014). The electric system has 85-95 percent effectiveness on keeping the Asian carp at bay (Foley 2014). This is currently the system that is being used in most areas and has done a decent job, but Asian carp DNA has been found past these barriers and very close to the lakes (Cuddington et al). The last system that is being discussed is the use of physical prevention, which would combine different deterrence such as strobe lights, sounds, and bubbles. The only problem is that this barrier is expected to keep out only a 75-95 percent of the Asian carp. The options that could be implemented are still on debate while the Asian carp are moving further towards the lakes (Foley 2014).
Lake Erie food web with Asian Carp.  Source NOAA GLERL
  Overall it seems like the introduction of the Asian carp will lead to a negative out come through the influences that it will have different ecological, economic, and hum interactions. While the migration of Asian carp to the Great Lakes seems inevitable, steps to mitigate the effects are in the works. With new information hopefully government agencies, local communities, and new ichthyologist can create a system where the native species can thrive and the Asian carps effects are lessened to Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes. 

 "About Our Great Lakes: Economy." About Our Great Lakes -Economy- NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL). Accessed April 19, 2016. http://www.glerl.noaa.gov/pr/ourlakes/economy.html.
"Asian Carp Response in the Midwest." Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed April 19, 2016. http://www.asiancarp.us/faq.htm.
Cuddington, K., W. J. S. Currie, and M. A. Koops. "Could an Asian Carp Population Establish in the Great Lakes from a Small Introduction?" Biol Invasions Biological Invasions 16, no. 4 (2013): 903-17. doi:10.1007/s10530-013-0547-3.
Foley, James A. "Asian Carp Invasion Barriers Evaluated in New Great Lakes Study." Nature World News RSS. 2014. Accessed April 19, 2016. http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/5818/20140129/asian-carp-invasion-barriers-evaluated-new-great-lakes-study.htm.
"You Are Here DNR Fishing, Fishing in Michigan." DNR. Accessed April 21, 2016. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_52261_54896-232231--,00.html.
Zhang, H., E. S. Rutherford, D. M. Mason, J. T. Breck, M. E. Wittmann, R. M. Cooke, D. M. Lodge, J. D. Rothlisberger, X. Zhu, and T. B. Johnson. 2015. Forecasting the impacts of Silver and Bighead Carp on the Lake Erie food web. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 145(1):136–162.


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