Asian Carp threaten our way of lifePublished 11:00am Thursday, March 6, 2014
Protecting our environment has been on the agenda for both political parties for many years.
Even though the groups disagree on the level of environmental threat our world is currently facing, there is one issue that both parties stand united on and that is the threat of invasive species. Just like with the pythons and boas in the Florida everglades, which are threatening the alligator population and starting to turn up in people’s back yards, the Asian carp is now threatening the ecology and waterways of the upper Midwest. We need to do whatever it takes to protect our inland waterways and the Great Lakes, which is one of our nation’s greatest resources.
The Asian carp is a hardy fish that breeds quickly, overwhelming native fish populations and causing starvation. The carp can easily jump over barriers such as low dams and threaten our water quality because of their huge numbers. They have also been known to jump out of the water when disturbed by passing watercraft placing boaters and skiers at risk.
Asian carp were initially used throughout the south to clean commercial fishing ponds in the 1970s and later infiltrated local rivers and lakes when they escaped from fish hatcheries during intense flooding. It has only taken 20 years for the invasive species to get from the southern Mississippi area to infest the Midwest and threaten the Great Lakes.
The carp have no natural enemies on this continent and a recent report from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources states that the St. Joseph River is considered a perfect habitat for the fish and is reminiscent of their native rivers and lakes in Asia. Without predators to control their numbers the carp could very well overwhelm the rivers ecosystem.
Rep. Candice Miller, of Michigan, recently introduced the Defending Against Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2014 in the U.S. House of Representatives in order to give the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers the ability to design and construct barriers in Illinois, sealing off the canals and rivers that pull water from Lake Michigan.
This will hopefully keep the invasive species from spreading further. The cost of the project will be around $18.3 billion, but that will be relatively cheap compared to the loss of the Great Lakes’ $7 billion a year commercial fishing industry, which would affect 1.5 million jobs or result in the loss of $16 billion a year to the recreational economy. Another benefit is that these barriers would also regulate the flow of Great Lakes waters into the Mississippi basin, which has been one of the causes for the recent lower lake levels.
Our Great Lakes and bountiful waterways are the lifeblood of this nation and the tourism industry is one of the cornerstones of Michigan’s economy. It’s imperative that we act now because the invasion of Asian carp could threaten our very way of life and lead to the loss of jobs, economic prosperity and rare native species.
We need bipartisan support for this legislation to protect our lakes at all costs so that future generations can enjoy them.
William Crandell is a community activist and member of the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Democratic Party. He is also a member of the South County Democratic Club where he has served as their communications director and as the chairperson of the SCDC Blue Tiger Community Action Committee.