Schumer, Gillibrand urge action on Asian carp, fishermen concerned

U.S. senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with 13 of their colleagues, have urged the White House Council on Environmental Quality to move swiftly in developing immediate solutions to combat the prevalence of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

The Senate is not alone in its concerns; local fishermen are also following the matter closely.

Asian carp are large, prolific and consume vast amounts of food – weighing up to 100 pounds and ranging as long as four feet – disrupting the food chain that supports native fish. Their large size, ravenous appetites and rapid rate of reproduction pose a significant threat to Lake Erie’s ecosystem. This aggressive invasive species could destroy the Great Lakes fish populations, devastating the $7 billion recreational fishing industry, tourism industry and the general economic well-being of the entire region.

Current efforts to control the spread of Asian carp include two electrical barriers around Chicago where the Mississippi River links to the Great Lakes. However, these efforts have fallen short, as illustrated by evidence indicating that Asian carp may have migrated past the electrical barrier. The DNA evidence found implies that the Asian carp may now be as close as 6 miles from Lake Michigan, 20 miles closer than previously thought. The invasion of Asian carp into Lake Michigan is significant, since at that point they will have the ability to migrate to all of the Great Lakes.

OBSERVER Sportsman Columnist Gene Pauszek said he has heard many sportsmen express concern and hopes government officials will step up on the issue.

Mike Rosing, who serves on Dunkirk’s Harbor Commission said if Asian carp reach Lake Erie it would be a “disaster.”

Zen Olow, who is involved with the Conservation Council and the Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs in Chautauqua County, said he doesn’t think the electric barrier’s 99 percent efficiency in stopping the Asian carp is good enough.

“Ninety-nine percent means one percent is still getting through,” he pointed out. “Because Lake Erie is the smallest, shallowest and probably the warmest of the Great Lakes, Asian carp could easily take over the ecosystem.”

He said he has heard Asian carp may not be able to survive the cold winters of the Great Lakes, but he does not want to find out.

“They could hurt the fisheries and eliminate the game fish. I may not see this in my lifetime, but this could easily happen in my daughter’s lifetime and I really don’t want that to happen,” he said, noting his 21-year-old daughter also likes to fish.

Schumer and Gillibrand stressed their continued commitment to practical, immediate solutions to the threat of Asian carp and other invasive species to the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin and asked for assistance in urging the Chicago Area Waterway System Advisory Committee to make recommendations for short-, medium-, and long-term solutions.

“The Great Lakes are a key driver of tourism and economic activity for many New York communities, and we must do all we can to stamp out invasive species like the Asian carp that threaten to undermine the entire Great Lakes ecosystem,” said Senator Schumer. “Any threat to the Great Lakes is a threat to the entire New York economy. … We must make sure this invasive species does not destroy the countless benefits the Great Lakes provide to communities around the state.”

“The Asian carp pose a traumatic and long term threat to the Great Lakes,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “We need to take aggressive action now to stop the spread of Asian carp by establishing more immediate solutions that will help keep New York’s waterways and natural habitats free from invasive species.”

In their letter to White House Council on Environmental Quality Asian Carp Director John Goss, the senators wrote, “While disagreements about prevention measures remain, the Asian carp threat persists, and urgent action is needed. As the Asian Carp Director, we ask for your leadership to help guide a productive dialogue among all impacted stakeholders that includes a focus on practical, immediate solutions with broad support across all impacted stakeholders.”