Sunday, February 24, 2013

Invasive Carp

    Asian carp, introduced into such tributaries as the Mississippi, are an amazing hazard to local ecosystems and economies. Carp are a type of fish that thrive in low oxygen environments, and are especially good at filter feeding their diet of choice, algae. Asian Carp such as the Big-head or Silver Carp, which have been introduced into American waters, have a nasty habit of jumping out of water, or breaching, as a result of disturbances such as a motorboat passing by. After being introduced into many American water systems as a result of flooding of fish farms about a decade ago, they have slowly advanced towards the Great Lakes. In a recent article by The Washington Post, studies revealed DNA evidence that the notoriously invasive Asian Carp had made its way beyond electrically charged barriers protecting the lakes, which could spell disaster for the Great Lake’s seven billion dollar per year fishing industry.
    The fish are damaging the environment by outcompeting native fishes for resources, as well as the economy. Due to their lack of natural predators, they become very large and exist in mass numbers. As one may imagine, getting hit in the face at high speed with a large fish can cause considerable damage and discomfort. As a result of dangerous boating conditions, many boaters are refraining from using the waters. One of the only ways to respond to the massive horde of Asian Carp include fishing them out. Many local areas afflicted with the fish have created special fishing tournaments to attempt to collect as many as possible.                
    Despite the efforts of locals, the fish remain one of the greatest threats to the Lakes since Sea Lampreys or Zebra Mussels. Unlike the former, with proper preparation, they are acceptable for human consumption. [Editor: unlike the former? Lampreys are said to be edible, even tasty!] This can assist in the eradication of the species, especially if there is a demand to harvest them. The inherent problem with creating demand for a good which is invasive and harmful to a local environment is that when we have fished them to extinction, we will have to find a new good to meet that demand. Local economies can benefit in the short term from such practices, as well as the fishing tournaments, however, the fish are extremely harmful to the local ecosystems in which they invade, and ultimately do more harm than good. Personally, I look forward to the day that they are eradicated, regardless of the possible lost profit that could have been incurred by turning them into a commodity.
--Jack Valenti

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