Paul Austin

Paul Austin is the director of Conservation Minnesota, a statewide non-profit. In that role, he gets to hear and share Minnesotan’s stories about our lakes, lands and way of life. Paul’s past lives include election as a small town mayor, serving at the US Agency for International Development, and managing a small marketing firm. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, two small children and one very large dog.

Congress Alone Won’t Stop Invasive Carp

Posted by: Paul Austin Updated: June 6, 2014 - 3:57 PM

A massive aquatic army is making its way toward the state of Minnesota, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.  

Invasive carp, the general name given to a collection of species that include the bighead, silver, black and grass carp (also formerly known as Asian carp) are not yet established in Minnesota, but a few of them have been captured north of the Iowa border in the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers.  The fish can eat anywhere between 20 and 120 percent of their body weight per day, making them a serious threat to native aquatic life in the waterways they infest.  The Silver carp can weigh more than 100 pounds and jump as much as 10 feet out of the water, making navigation of infested waters treacherous.  Invasive carp have no known predators, and are so aggressive that they frequently out-compete native fish for food and habitat.  

Congress recently passed legislation that would see the lock at St. Anthony Falls closed in an effort to reduce the risk of the fish spreading to waterways north of the Twin Cities. A federal multi-agency task force has also been created to look into ways to further slow the spread of the invasive carp.  But while rules and laws are put into place, the first line of defense remains with the users of potentially infested waterways.  A simple message has become the rallying cry of those who fear what invasive carp could mean to Minnesota’s lakes and streams.  

Don’t use the locks, and stay in one pool at a time.

While in days gone by the lock and dam system was an efficient and even fun way of moving up and downstream, today there is no way of telling if you are sharing your ride in the aquatic elevator with invasive carp. And while the locks will remain open, the organizations attempting to slow the spread of the carp are asking fishing boats, canoes and kayaks to not use the locks and to enjoy one pool (the area between two Mississippi locks) at a time. Instead, use boat launches to move from pool to pool. 

Congress deemed the closing of the St. Anthony Falls lock acceptable because of the low amount of commercial shipping traffic that utilizes it, but the locks lower in the river system will be required to remain functional to allow commercial shipping to reach the Twin Cities.  So, for people who use the lower stretches of the Mississippi, when at all possible, please stay in one  pool to ensure our waters stay safe and free of these ‘flying’ fish and other invaders.  

Additionally, the standard boating rules of cleaning your boat between launches and pulling the boat plug before trailering can help prevent the spread of other invasive species, like zebra muscles, found throughout Minnesota.  Even if it seems like a lot of hassle, pulling the boat plug only takes a few minutes and can help prevent undetectable carp eggs from making it into the next body of water you visit.   

These carp have made it to within a few miles of our border to the south.  The only thing keeping them from fully infesting all of Minnesota’s waterways is vigilance on the part of Minnesota boaters.

When you next head for the water, please remember to keep your boat clean, and stay in one pool. 

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