Asian carp jumps on the Illinois River near Utica, Ill.
Ramin Rahimian, Star Tribune
THE BOUNTY QUESTION
So why not reward anglers for catching Asian carp? The problem is that these fish eat plankton, not bait. They're also cagey and difficult to see in murky river water. Anglers could net some but not enough. One expert said catching these carp is like trying to net your pet cats while blindfolded.
The Mississippi River Fund will hold a meeting Monday about Asian carp. To register, go to www.missriverfund.org/events.
Editorial: Seize the moment to stop Asian carp
- March 17, 2012 - 5:02 PM
The fat, defiant-looking Asian carp pulled from the Mississippi River near Winona recently should have crystallized the pressing challenge for Minnesota's political leaders.
This potentially disastrous invasive species has swum upstream faster than other states -- and federal agencies -- have acted to halt them. Now that they're in Minnesota's aquatic back yard, policymakers here must move more swiftly than the carp to stop the spread.
Left unchecked, this advancing fish army -- which voraciously vacuums up the plankton other fish eat -- could create an ecological and economic swath of destruction across the Upper Mississippi watershed.
Not only are our rivers at risk, so are the state's treasured lakes, many of which are stream-fed. Beautiful, broad-shouldered Mille Lacs -- the giant central Minnesota lake and tourism magnet -- is one of the lakes at highest risk.
Minnesotans must mobilize because others downstream have not. "It's not too late, but it is now or never,'' said Peter Sorensen, a University of Minnesota fisheries professor.
Fortunately, the state's political leaders understand that they are the region's last line of defense and are moving aggressively at the state and federal levels to fight these destructive fish. The challenge ahead: to turn words into deeds and get bills passed swiftly to halt the carp's spread and fund the research needed to keep them permanently at bay.
Legislation highlighted Monday at a riverside news conference by Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen, the cosponsor of the U.S. House bill authored by Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, is an important step forward.
If passed, the legislation would set an aggressive deadline for completing a feasibility study focusing on temporarily closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock (just up from Minneapolis's Stone Arch bridge) to halt the fish.
This forceful legislation would also mandate closure of the lock if these carp are found in critical areas of the Mississippi River -- adult Asian carp above Hastings' Lock and Dam No. 2, and juvenile carp above Alma, Wis.
Closing the lock would inconvenience river recreationists and force some businesses to reroute products currently carried on barges to trucks -- a costly measure. Inaction, however, could prove costlier. Once these fish infest state waters, there's no known way to eradicate them. That could decimate sport fish and make boating a nightmare. Asian carp are a YouTube video sensation for their leaping ability. On closer examination, what's really frightening is how many carp flop out of the water in affected rivers -- evidence of how quickly they can dominate an ecosystem.
Both Republican and DFL state legislators are pursuing aggressive measures in St. Paul, and Gov. Mark Dayton is to be commended for his personal leadership on the issue. Bills need to be passed this session or the carp will once again outpace policymakers.
Legislators need to push to minimize lock use, and find and fund the most effective placements for bubble or electric barriers to ensure maximum protection of state rivers. Long-term funding, not one-time money, is needed to establish an aquatic invasive species specialty research center at the University of Minnesota and draw world-class scientific talent there.
That research is critical. Barriers at best buy time against the carp invasion. While lock closures are more effective, additional permanent solutions are needed to prevent and reverse their spread, as well as to guard against other aquatic invaders.
It only makes sense that Minnesota would be at the forefront of finding these breakthroughs. State policymakers must seize this moment and make it happen.
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