The fear might become a reality, as destructive Asian carps approaching the Great Lakes are threatening the stability of their ecosystem and the presence of other local species of fish.
- Asian carps are an invasive species, who devour most of the food sources of other fish
- They can grow up to 7 feet in length, and 200 pounds in weight
- Asian carps eat 20% of their body weight each day
- They’re now 66 miles closer to Lake Michigan than believed at the beginning of 2015
The Asian carp (Bighead, Silver, Black, and Grass carp) are an invasive species of fish that are non-native to the waters, and are now making their way up the rivers. The problem is rooted in the fact that they’re highly damaging to the ecosystem. Asian carps pose a danger due to their voracious eating habits that can defeat all other competition.
The Silver carp is particularly damaging, as it possesses abilities to breed quickly and commonly feeds on the plankton that other larval fish and mussels require for survival.
Their species was first introduced in the United States in the 1970s. Their purpose was to keep down the number of algae in catfish ponds across Arkansas. However, the situation grew out of control, and their presence began to spread. By the 1990s, they were the scourge of the rivers, and are now found closer to the Great Lakes than ever before.
According to new reports, Asian carps were found 12 miles closer to Lake Michigan than first suspected. They still have many miles to go until they reach the Great Lakes, but just the possibility is worrying. They could wreak havoc on the ecosystems, and essentially affect a $7 billion industry.
Asian carps can grow up to 7 feet in length, weigh around 200 pounds, and daily eat 20% of their body weight. The mass alone could mean fewer food for the other species of fish.
Most of the attention has been focused around a Chicago canal, which will be one of the last line of defense against the invasive species. However, reports have it that there are another 13 possible entry points through which they could slither into the Great Lakes. They’re now 66 miles closer to Lake Michigan than they were at the beginning of the year.
The Obama administration has set aside $200 million for research and measures to deal with the threat. However, according to Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, “time is running out”. For years, both them and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been urged to find means to deal with the problem.
There are multiple solutions, but some are too expensive, while others would require years to pan out. For example, the U.S. Army Crops for Engineers suggested separating the Mississippi River from Lake Michigan. However, that would require an $18 billion investment and 25 years.
The Great Lakes do not have that long.
Image source: sciencebuzz.org