New York state moves to block
release of Asian carp
By Joel Stashenko
ALBANY, N.Y. - New York has issued emergency regulations
prohibiting most imports of live Asian carp, becoming
the last of the Great Lakes states to bar the voracious
eater that scientists and sportsmen fear will wreck the
lakes' food chain.
There is an exception to the rule in New York, however.
The state will allow one of three species of Asian carp,
bighead carp, to be transported live into New York City
and parts of nearby Westchester County for sale in fish
Carp are popular with Asian-American consumers in the
New York City area, according to the state Department
of Environmental Conservation, which issued the regulations.
Under the new rules, bighead carp have to be killed by
retailers before they can be sold.
The ban also applies to live silver carp and black carp,
and the eggs of all the species.
Scientists have been watching with rising alarm as Asian
carp have gotten closer to the Great Lakes via the upper
Mississippi River. The carp probably got into the river
in the early 1990s when floods allowed them to escape
from fishery operations near the lower Mississippi. They've
been advancing upriver ever since.
An experimental electric barrier has been built near
Chicago, where the nearby Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal
connects the Mississippi with Lake Michigan, to bar the
carp from entering the Great Lakes.
The U.S. chairman of the International Joint Commission,
a Canadian-American agency that oversees waterways linking
the two countries, called the introduction of Asian carp
into the Great Lakes a "nightmare scenario."
Asian carp are plankton eaters which can quickly grow
to four feet or longer and weigh 60 or more pounds.
Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based
Great Lakes Fishery Commission, said carp have been likened
to vacuum cleaners because they suck so many nutrients
out the water, depriving smaller fish who feed on the
plankton and the larger fish who, in turn, eat the smaller
Ultimately, Gaden said, the worry is that the food chain
will collapse for walleye, bass and other mainstays of
the $4 billion-a-year Great Lakes' sport fishing industry.
"They (Asian carp) grow fast, they reproduce quickly
and in astounding numbers," Gaden said. "We
in the Great Lakes region cannot tolerate even one more
Other species including lamprey eels and the zebra mussel
have already taken a heavy toll on the Great Lakes, Gaden
To make matters worse with the carp, the silver variety
can leap as high as 10 feet out of the water if surprised
by a passing boat or jet ski. Gaden said more boaters
are suffering broken noses and other injuries when they're
hit by jumping carp.
President Bush's new proposed budget will include an
extra $1 million for research in combatting invasive species
in the Great Lakes such as Asian carp.
While praising the state for barring importation of Asian
carp, Gaden said the state should have also banned the
bighead carp and allowed only filleted carp into New York.
But DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren said New York had to
balance the potential ecological dangers with economic
considerations. The regulations have been in place since
January. Violators face up to 15 days in jail, a $250
fine, or both.
"It recognizes the economic market that has been
created for bighead carp and allows for that market to
continue," she said.
State scientists said there is a minimal threat of a
bighead carp surviving if released into the waterways
around New York City because all quickly drain into salt
water bodies, where the fish cannot live.
New York state is also prohibiting the importation of
28 varieties of snakehead, another hungry Asian import
considered an invasive species. It grows to up to 40 inches
long and weighs 15 pounds. Officials said the state regulations
comply with a federal snakehead importation ban.