Asian Carp Invading the Great Lakes

Topics: Mississippi River, Great Lakes, Drainage basin Pages: 4 (1180 words) Published: January 31, 2013
HAVANA, Ill - As scientists aboard a research boat activate an electric current, the calm Illinois River transforms into a roiling, silvery mass. Asian carp by the dozen hurtle from the water as if shot from a gun, soaring in graceful arcs before plunging beneath the surface with splashes resembling tiny geysers. These fish aren’t the normal species of fish you would see around here. When brought to the Great Lakes these fish have the potential to destroy the ecosystem the normal fish and organisms live in. We need to prevent the Asian Carp from getting into the Great Lakes so we can preserve its ecosystem and habitat to the organisms that already live there.

Asian carp is a catchall name for species of silver, bighead, grass, and black carp from Southeast Asia. The huge, hard-headed silver carp also pose a threat to boaters. The fish can leap out of the water when startled by boat engines, often colliding with people and causing injuries. As very big filter feeders, Asian carp consume up to 20% of their bodyweight per day in plankton and can grow to over 100 pounds. Plankton are small floating organisms that form the foundation of the aquatic food chain and are vital to native fish. It is crucial to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. Once established in an ecosystem they are virtually impossible to get rid of. Adult Asian carp have no natural predators in North America and females lay approximately half a million eggs each time they spawn.

Asian carp were imported into the U.S. in the 1970s to filter pond water in fish farms in Arkansas. Flooding allowed them to escape and establish reproducing populations in the wild by the early 1980s. At present, bighead carp have been found in the open waters of 23 states and silver carp in 17 states. Asian carp represent over 97% of the biomass in portions of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and are quickly spreading northward up the Illinois River in the direction of the Great...
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