In the late 1980’s, bighead, silver and grass carp, collectively known as Asian Carp, escaped from aquaculture feeding pens in the Southern states and began reproducing in the Mississippi River. Since then, with few predators, abundant food and habitat, Asian Carp populations have exploded, crowding out native species throughout the Mississippi watershed. In some segments of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, Asian Carp now account for 80 to 90 percent of the biomass.
Next stop: the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains electric barriers along the Chicago shipping canal to try to keep the invaders at bay, but most researchers think it’s a matter of when, not if, carp begin infesting the Great Lakes. So, the real question is, “how bad will it get?” And that answer may depend on which lake you’re talking about — and what other species have gotten there first.
Harvey Bootsma, a limnologist with the School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, spoke with 8 O’Clock Buzz host Brian Standing about the issue.