Feds Announce New Actions to Battle Asian Carp

For years, Asian carp have been slowly moving up the Mississippi River. In addition to competing with native fish, they jump out of the water when startled—sometimes even posing a hazard to boaters.

Now, with the invasive fish nearing Chicago, the Obama Administration has announced a new strategy for preventing the carp from entering the Great Lakes, where they could threaten a sportfishing industry worth $7 billion. The plan also includes money for research on how to battle the fish. However, the move appears unlikely to end a feud between midwestern states over what to do about the carp.

The state of Michigan is worried about the impact of Asian carp on sportfishing in Lake Michigan and other lakes. The state's Attorney General sued Illinois to force the state to close a canal that connects the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes. But Illinois refused, arguing that such a move would harm industries that rely on shipping through the canal. Last month, the Supreme Court declined to resolve the dispute.

In a press conference this afternoon, officials from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that $78.5 million would be spent to fight the carp, coming from EPA's $475 million Great Lake restoration initiative. "It does represent a major investment," said Cameron Davis, an EPA senior adviser on Great Lakes issues.

Asian carp DNA has already been detected in Lake Michigan, suggesting that some fish already arrived—but perhaps not enough to establish a breeding population. Among the steps to be taken are construction of a third $10.5 million electric barrier in the canal to block more carp from arriving. The funding would also allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand its monitoring in the canal and accelerate DNA testing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will speed up their study of the feasibility of permanently closing the locks. And $1.5 million will be spent on research into possible controls of Asian carp, such as targeted poisons and ways to disrupt their spawning. "We can and will stop the Asian carp," said Nancy Sutley, chair of CEQ.

The announcement didn't go over well with Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. In a statement he described the plan as "full of half-measures and gimmicks when keeping Asian carp from devastating the Great Lakes $7 billion fishery requires only one step: immediately closing the locks."

Credit: Chris Olds, USFWS