Lawmakers: Asian carp ban needed
Fish threatens Illinois River, Great Lakes ecosystems
By The Associated Press and Journal Star staff
Journal Star (pjstar.com, IL)
Published November 4, 2005
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Members of a House subcommittee pointedly
asked a federal official Thursday why the Bush administration
hasn't banned imports of Asian carp, an exotic fish species
that threatens the Illinois River and Great Lakes' ecosystems.
"The Asian carp could devastate the Great Lakes'
multibillion dollar fishing industry, and Wisconsin's
fishing tradition," said Rep. Mark Green, a Wisconsin
Republican who introduced legislation to ban the imports.
"We have an obligation to stop this onslaught while
But Everett Wilson, deputy assistant director for fisheries
and habitat conservation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, said the agency must consider the economic impact
that a ban would have on southern fish farmers, who imported
the voracious fish from China to help them control parasites
by eating snails.
The agency has not yet acted on a 2002 proposal to ban
black carp, a species of Asian carp that southern fish
"So this isn't a scientific process, it's a market
process?" Green asked at a House Resources fisheries
and oceans subcommittee hearing.
"It's a scientific process mixed with an economic
process," Wilson answered.
The subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Wayne Gilchrist, R-Md.,
and other subcommittee members joined with Green in criticizing
the Bush administration's lack of action on a ban.
Some carp have escaped the southern fish farms and made
their way north along the Mississippi River and its tributaries,
and could soon reach the Great Lakes. An electric barrier
south of Chicago, which gives the fish a non-lethal jolt,
is designed to prevent them from entering Lake Michigan.
Asian carp, which often leap out of the water, can grow
to more than 100 pounds.
As filter feeders, they're affecting the Illinois River
food chain by eating plankton needed by native fish.
The silver species which leaps from the water makes boating
dangerous when the large fish crash into boats, hitting
people and damaging equipment.
They grow quickly, have no natural predators and won't
bite a hook. One fish can produce 2.2 million eggs.
Some experts believe the electronic barrier installed
to keep them out of the Great Lakes has come too late.
River expert Mark Beorkrem, former executive director
of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, said the carp's
presence is just another part of "globalization of
Once a species appears, there's no way to get rid of
it, he said. "It will fill a niche."
Asian carp can be caught in special nets and used as
a commercial species for protein powder and food. But
the Illinois River lacks processing plants and other infrastructure
for that endeavor.