A new report from scientists at the University of Notre Dame, The Nature Conservancy, and Central Michigan University show that Asian carp probably already exist in the Great Lakes. According to Associated Press, while the species is not yet widespread, the study’s lead author Christopher Jerde said that, “The most plausible explanation is still that there are some carp out there.”
The two-year study collected more than 2,800 water samples from the lakes and connecting waterways. Of those samples, 58 cases of bighead and silver carp DNA were detected, placing the threat directly in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) and Lake Erie. Previous reports from federal agencies have speculated that DNA traces could have been introduced to the water by birds, boats, or fishing gear. Jerde thinks otherwise. His team’s study systematically rules out each of these possibilities and proposes that a small amount of carp exist in the Great Lakes, although it is too soon for even a preliminary estimate. Jerde contends that this number of carp is still too low to be a reproductive threat.
A carp population that is capable of breeding could spell disaster for the local fishing industry, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports as generating $1 billion annually from commercial fishing and $4 billion from sport fishing. In addition, presence of an Asian carp threat may cause a massive construction effort to seal off parts of the Great Lakes from the CAWS.
It is asserted by the study that the barriers in the CAWS are insufficient to keep out the carp. “It is likely that some Asian carps in the CAWS have dispersed towards Lake Michigan from below the barriers,” reads the report. There are other suspected points of entry however, as Lake Erie is also affected. The Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other federal agencies have stated that they will continue to study the problem and offer solutions in preventing carp entry to the Great Lakes.
Here’s one delicious solution: cooking Asian carp.
You can read the new study here.
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service