Carp Crisis: Addressing Asian Carp Ailment Around the Great Lakes

Andy Soergel and Shawn Swaney
We are environmentalists examining the
origins of the Asian Carp dilemma and
weighing the pros and cons of potential
solutions, hoping to solidify a plan that could
be proposed to Congress.
Fish can break bones!
 Video shows a man with a black eye and broken
nose from a jumping carp
 Families commonly go to the Great Lakes, so
these dangerous fish could seriously diminish
tourist profits as well
Silver and bighead carp in particular
aggressively feed on plankton
 This is helpful to aquaculture, as carp eat many
types of plankton and phytoplankton that cause
algal blooms
Believed to have originally escaped in
aquaculture farms in Arkansas during intense
The fish used in these ponds often escape
through flooding, or, in the case of some
carp, jumping
New outdoor aquaculture ponds are being
developed, which could involve the import of
even more of an already invasive species
Rising temperatures also means suitability for
native fish is moving northward
 Suitable rivers for warmwater fish are expected to
rise by 31% across the US
 This means an estimated 19 fish species will
invade the lower Great Lakes and another 8 lower
Great Lakes species will invade the upper Great
Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) were brought to the United States
from Europe around 1831, mostly to be placed in private ponds.
Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) were imported from Asia
around 1963 to help control plant quality in aquaculture ponds
 Found in the Missisippi River near Illinois in 1971
Silver carp (Hypophthal- michthys molotrix) and bighead carp (H.
nobilis) were imported from China to help manage algal blooms
and water quality in ponds in 1973
 Found in Mississippi River near Illinois around 1982
Many more of these carp escaped during the Great Mississippi
Floods of 1993
These fish breed rapidly and quickly spread in
a waterway
They threaten to starve native species to the
Illinois River, Mississippi River, and Great
Plankton-eating species like the gizzard shad (Dorosoma
cepedianum) and bigmouth buffalo Ictiobus cyprinellus) at
They also threaten to disrupt food chains and
food webs from a micro- to macroscopic level
Lake Michigan should theoretically lack
sufficient plankton to support long-term carp
However, because the average water
temperature of Lake Michigan rarely exceeds
20˚C, the fish can maintain their body mass on
the present plankton supplies over a 30-day
Over 30 days in 20˚C water, the average carp can
travel over 40km, easily accessing other
waterways with higher concentrations of
The Great Lakes annually provides about $7
billion to the US economy in fishing-related
This could be HUGELY affected by the
invasive carp
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers completed an
electric fence in 2006 to combat the fish
 Cost $9 million
 This barrier is also potentially harmful to other fish
life, not just carp
 It isn’t actually working very well…
 Safety for humans was inconclusive; this could be a
big problem if someone fell in the water in the middle
of the barrier
There are now three of these fences set up
around Chicago
These toxins, used to repel fish during fence
maintenance, cost over $3 million and take 2
weeks to clean up
 In 2009, this effort killed 200,000 pounds of fish,
of which only one pound was Asian carp.
 Did they get all the toxins? Aren’t we eating other
fish from these rivers?
Build more fences?
Build a dam?
Close off Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal?
Eat all of them?
Do nothing?
We already know what we’re doing
We’re stopping most of the fish already
One of the least expensive solutions
The government and the US Army Corps of
Engineers both support this move
Fish smaller than 6 inches in length can still
get through
Disrupting non-carp fish patterns
The maintenance and toxin use is risky
Boats and other crafts are getting shocked,
which is bad for the electronics on board
The shocks could be potentially harmful to
humans and other species
Is shocking and stunning/paralyzing fish
A flood-control dam could limit fish entering
the Great Lakes
Provides extra water supply
Flood control in Chicago currently dumps
floodwater into Lake Michigan
 If the fish get much closer, this water disposal
method could dump carp caught in the water into
the Great Lakes
▪ A flood-control dam could prevent this
The Great Lakes are right there; no one needs an extra
water supply
Would severely alter downstream activity of the Illinois
Would negatively impact the ecological integrity of the
region about as much as an unrestrained carp population
Sediment build-up
$$$$$$ Second most expensive solution
In the time it takes to construct a dam, the fish could
already penetrate the electric barrier and make it to Lake
The Army Corps has identified over a dozen waterways
through which carp can get to the Great Lakes other than
up the Illinois River, so this could be useless
The Des Plaines River runs just parallel to the
Illinois (only yards apart in some places)
 Flooding often causes the fish species of each
river to inter-mix
 If the carp get far enough North along the Illinois
River, it is only a matter of time before they
spread to Des Plaines and literally around the
electric barrier, into Lake Michigan
 So damming one water way could be a total waste
This is the most reliable way to completely
avoid the carp from entering the Great Lakes
There would be relatively few environmental
The fish could be isolated and dealt with
more effectively
Returns Great Lakes to original ecological
integrity before the canal was built
This waterway is currently the only channel
connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Lawrence
 Every year, over a million tons of goods travel through the
this waterway; closing the canal could result in huge losses
in the trading industry
 Lots of trade comes through this region that would need
to reroute; more expensive to trade and ship items
 Can the government justify spending so much money and
then losing money in the trade industry?
 Four consecutive Supreme Court decisions go against this
drastic action
The US Supreme Court has voted to stay out of
the fish fray on four separate occasions
 Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and
Pennsylvania requested that the Army Corps of
Engineers install two nets in Chicago rivers to cut fish
off while the Canal was filled
▪ Denied; too drastic, expensive, and time consuming (two
 This would lead to a permanent solution that would
involve closing off the manmade Chicago Sanitary
and Ship Canal, which connects Canadian waterways
with the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of
Costs from $3 billion at the very cheapest and
least environmentally friendly to around $9.5
 Taxpayer dollars and government funds would
subsidize this project
 The aforementioned lawsuit of the five states vs.
the Army Corps is still pending a ruling in a federal
district court, but prospects are not great
Fish would become much less expensive if we
utilized this resource to its fullest
 85% of fish in the United States are imported, which
raises costs
Carp are healthy and would help with
nutritionally sound diets
Least expensive alternative
Creates jobs for fishermen
Least environmentally invasive
Name of a chain of Asian Carp merchants, not
the actual solution
 Chef Philippe Parola insists he has found a way
to make the fish both delicious and incredibly
 Chinese consider the fish a delicacy, so they are
actually surprised we are not eating these fish up
 “Chinese ‘foodies’ must join battle and rescue the
Americans! The Obama Administration will reimburse
you for eating steamed fish head with chopped
peppers.” –Tweet from Chinese media executive
Fish are described as bloody and bony
Many people do not feel that they taste very good
If toxins are being used to regulate these fish, do we
really want to eat them in excess?
 There isn’t enough time or resources to get ALL of
these fish and keep them from entering the Great
 This is not a viable long-term solution
 Overfishing along Great Lakes tributaries does not
necessarily guarantee that only Asian Carp will get
picked up in nets
 Native species could be adversely impacted/overfished
We don’t pay anything
Streams across America have jumping, semidangerous fish
Great Lakes are invaded
The $7 billion fishing industry in the Great Lakes is
 The carp take out the Great Lakes food web at its
ankles, eating all the plankton and phytoplankton and
overcrowding the native species
 The carp invade other Great Lakes tributaries,
spreading the carp problem to other waterways
 “A failure to address the exotic species problem will
likely result in more introductions and potential
harmful effects to native biota.” –USGS Asian Carp
Most economically-sound solution while keeping
the environment in mind:
 Maintain the electric fences
Best decision for the environment:
 Closing the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal
Most likely solution in 2012:
 Maintain the electric fences and wait to see what the
Army Corps reports in 2014
Our personal favorite:
 Everyone eat carp!

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