Announcement comes as Canada plans joint effort with the United States to study the threat posed to the Great Lakes
U.S. Asian Carp Director John Goss, known as the nation’s “carp czar,” unveiled a three-part strategy for combating the invasive fish that threatens to overrun the Great Lakes, National Public Radio reports.
Gross said in an interview with NPR on Oct. 7 that the plan involves continuing to remove the carp from the Chicago canal system, strengthening the electric barrier currently in place to keep the carp from passing into the Great Lakes, and researching long-term solutions like biological controls that could specifically target the carp while sparing other fish.
Other deterrents, such as sound waves, are also being tested to drive the fish away or herd them into areas for capture, he said.
Goss, appointed by the White House to the newly created position in September, is overseeing the $78.5 million federal response to the threat that Asian carp pose to the world’s largest freshwater system. Experts fear that the plankton-gobbling fish could undercut the Great Lakes’ already-stressed food chain, decimating its fish populations and endangering the region’s $7 billion sportfishing industry.
Goss said that he does not have direct authority to order actions like the closure of Chicago-area canal locks — which several Great Lakes states are seeking – but added that federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers do have such authority if an emergency is declared.
“But I believe that we have containment with the electric barriers.… while we go ahead and evaluate all of the options for putting a permanent separation for invasive species moving from the lakes to the rivers, or the rivers to the lakes,” Goss said.
His announcement comes on the heels of news that Canadian scientists will join with their U.S. counterparts to study the threat that Asian carp pose to the lakes, the Toronto Star reported. Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans program has earmarked $415,000 for the study, in addition to a 2010 budget of $4 million to combat aquatic invasive species.
The 18-month study will identify potential points of entry for the fish, determine likely spawning grounds and habitat, and help direct the prevention, monitoring, response and control efforts by U.S. and Canadian authorities, according to Fisheries and Oceans.
The study may also help answer whether Asian carp could survive in the Great Lakes at all. A recent Associated Press report noted that some scientists are questioning whether the invasive quagga mussel, which also filters plankton out of the water, has already left the Great Lakes so starved of the ecosystem’s building blocks that there would not be enough left to support an Asian carp population.
The mussels have “beaten the Asian carp to the buffet table,” Gary Fahnenstiel, a senior ecologist with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, told the AP. “While the public has been worried about Asian carp and the Chicago canal, another invader has fundamentally changed the lake and made it inhospitable to the Asian carp.”
Not all scientists agree with that assessment. Detroit Free Press outdoors writer Eric Sharp recently quoted two researchers who believed that the fish would have little trouble finding enough to eat in the lakes.