Goss: Money critical to winning Asian carp warThe man President Obama tagged to stop the spread of Asian carp in the U.S. vowed Thursday to keep up the fight but warned a lack of federal money could cut the battle short. John Goss, Asian carp director for the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, gave the keynote address Thursday at the 54th convention of the International Association of Great Lakes Research at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
By: By John Myers, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
The man President Obama tagged to stop the spread of Asian carp in the U.S. vowed Thursday to keep up the fight but warned a lack of federal money could cut the battle short.
John Goss, Asian carp director for the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, gave the keynote address Thursday at the 54th convention of the International Association of Great Lakes Research at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
Goss said a series of electrical barriers built on the Illinois River near Chicago to keep the carp out of Lake Michigan so far appears to be working well.
“There are no fish of any kind getting through the three barriers,” Goss said, although DNA evidence shows at least a few Asian carp had already moved upstream before the electricity was switched on.
Meanwhile, efforts are under way this summer to net tons of Asian carp out of the Illinois River system downstream of the barriers to reduce the chances of the fish passing into the Great Lakes. Crews also remain ready with chemicals to poison the river should the carp become established past the barrier.
More than 100 Asian carp have been fitted with GPS transmitters to track their movements and see how close they get to the lakes. And scientists are studying how to use pheromones to attract the carp to their death, as well as develop new poisons that would only kill carp and not native fish — similar to a substance used for decades to kill sea lamprey that has been benign to most native species.
“We now have 45 funded projects for carp control and research moving forward,” Goss said, including efforts to determine which areas of the Great Lakes are most vulnerable should the carp advance.
So far, shallow, fertile lakes like Erie are believed to be the mostly likely hotspots, researchers say, but shallow, fertile bays and estuaries of all the Great Lakes could be at risk. A joint Canadian/U.S. research project on each lake’s vulnerability is due out late this year.
Goss joked that YouTube videos of carp leaping out of the water have actually helped spread the word on invasive species and that education to reminding anglers and others not to move live bait or fish between lakes or rivers seems to be getting through.
But Goss, a former Indiana natural resource official, noted that nearly all money for efforts to study and control Asian carp and keep them out of the Great Lakes has come from federal Great Lakes Restoration Fund grants. The president proposed another $350 million for Great Lakes restoration for 2012, including carp control, but the Republican-controlled House has cut that to zero.
“We have a lot of talking to do to get it back in,” Goss said. “As people take sides on the budget, we have to remind them of the importance of the Great Lakes. They need to know (research) money is paying off. This has been a bipartisan effort with broad support ... But there are a lot of new people in Washington, and we have to keep up the effort to remind them how critical this is.”
The funding shortage also has stifled federal efforts to look beyond the immediate danger — Asian carp moving from the Illinois River system into Lake Michigan — to consider the broader problem of carp up and down the Mississippi River moving deeper into the U.S.
A plan was developed in 2007 to attack carp along the Mississippi system. “It’s a good plan, ready to go. But it has no funding,” Goss said. To truly make inroads into the Asian carp crisis “at some point, we are going to have to move into the rivers with eradication and control measures.”
Bighead, silver and grass carp from Asia were introduced into the U.S. more than 30 years ago to help clean ponds in catfish farms. Some of the carp escaped, and the species have now spread up and down the Mississippi River system, as far north as the St. Croix River in Minnesota.
So far little has stopped the spread of the big filter-feeding fish that thrive by swimming with open mouths and filtering tiny creatures out of the water. They are voracious eaters and reproduce rapidly, and scientists fear they could displace many native species.
Some of the Asian carp grow to more than 100 pounds, and others are known for their knack of leaping 10 feet out of the water at the sound of a boat passing overhead.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials this year wanted money to refurbish a dam in Coon Rapids on the Mississippi River to keep Asian carp from infiltrating into the heart of the Land of 10,000 lakes. The money was included in Gov. Mark Dayton’s construction/bonding bill but was zeroed-out by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
John Myers is a reporter at the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.