State Trying to the Prevent the Spread of Asian Carp

By: John DesRivieres Email
By: John DesRivieres Email

They're a Youtube sensation. There are dozens of online videos documenting the problems that jumping Asian carp create.

The invasive fish were imported by southern fish farmers in the 1970's and made their way into the Mississippi River due to flooding. They outcompete native fish for food and have already taken over several U.S. waterways.

They currently sit at the threshold of Lake Michigan and experts say all of the Great Lakes could be at risk.

"These Asian carp would eat up everything these other fish are trying to eat and for these lakes, that would be devestating for their ecosystems," said Eric Olson, Director of the UW-Extension Lakes Program.

A series of electric barriers are preventing Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan in large numbers.

With coastlines on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, Wisconsin's waterways are also at risk.

The state has multimillion dollar boating and fishing industries that could take a big hit if the state's rivers and lakes are filled with jumping silver carp.

"You try waterskiing when you've got fish flying at you. Or if you're fishing for walleye and bass and you've got Asian carp in the waterway, you might have a real hard time catching anything," said Bob Wakeman, Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.

Wakeman is leading the state's aquatic invasive species efforts, including the "Clean Boats, Clean Waters" program.

Volunteers are trained to observe boaters' habits and educate them about the transfer of Asian carp and other invasive species.

"Boats and trailers are the number one way these organisms move around the state. Whether you're a weekend warrior or whether you go to fishing tournaments, if you're trailering a boat, you could be potentially transporting invasive species between waterways," said Wakeman.

Wisconsin's aquatic invasive species laws ask boaters to inspect their boats and trailers, remove plants and animals, drain their bilge and live wells, and never move live fish.

"We want to document what boaters are doing at boat launches. We want to see if Wisconsin boaters are doing these things to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species," said Wakeman.

While the Asian carp threat to the Great Lakes is very real, there are still questions as to whether they could survive in Wisconsin's waterways.

"They consume about 20 percent of their body wieght everyday. That's an awful lot of food. Whether or not our lakes are productive enough to support that level of Asian carp is to be determined. I don't want to take that chance, I don't think the boaters in Wisconsin would want to risk that," said Wakeman.

Asian carp have been found in the lower reaches of the Wisconsin River, but not in alarming numbers.

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