(Asian) Carp-e Diem: Invasive Fish Set to Seize Minnesota's Waters

Sal holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
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Minnesota: Land of Carp-infested Lakes? (Photo: radcarper/Creative Commons)

When you’re the Asian carp—the Roman Empire of invasive species—staking claim to whole stretches of rivers in Mississippi and Illinois isn’t enough to quench your insatiable appetite for waterway domination.

You have to have Minnesota, too.

Two state officials, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Attorney General Lori Swanson, said today that they expect the Asian carp to make the leap—not literally, though the fish is known to jump up to 10 feet out of the water—to the waters of the North Star state, reports the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

"Failure to address the spread of carp could result in literally the loss of billions of dollars to the regional economy," said Klobuchar.

“We don’t want Minnesota to become the land of 10,000 Asian carp-infested lakes,” said Swanson.

Luke Skinner, an invasive species coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told the Star-Tribune that while there’s no evidence yet that the carp is breeding in Minnesota, “they’re on our doorstep.”

The carp’s history in the U.S. dates back to well-intentioned farmers in the 1970s.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Two species of Asian carp—the bighead and silver—were imported by catfish farmers in the 1970s to remove algae and suspended matter out of their ponds. During large floods in the early 1990s, many of the catfish farm ponds overflowed their banks, and the Asian carp were released into local waterways in the Mississippi River basin. The carp have steadily made their way northward up the Mississippi, becoming the most abundant species in some areas of the River.

A voracious eater wholly capable of disrupting sensitive local ecosystems, the Asian carp raised eyebrows in the Chicago media market last month when a 19-pound carp was caught six miles from Lake Michigan.

It was a stunner because a wildly expensive electric barrier was supposed to stop the fish 15 miles to the south.

Earlier this month, in an attempt to fight the carp’s pending invasion, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin introduced legislation that would permanently separate the Mississippi River Basin from Lake Michigan.

Swanson says that the carp is more than just a threat to the state's $2.2 billion fishing industry.

"Because many small fish would also disappear, game that depends on those fish would suffer, so hunters also would be affected," reports the Star-Tribune.

Photo: radcarper/Creative Commons via Flickr

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