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Charter Boat Captains Call for Closure of Asian Carp Paths to Great Lakes

Ohio Environmental Council, August 2, 2016

A group of charter boat captains from across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River are calling on Congress and other decision makers to take action in the fight against silver and bighead carp (Asian carp).
“While we are pleased with the steps taken so far to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, it’s not enough. We need permanent solutions as fast as possible,” said Captain Denny Grinold, Owner of Fish N Grin Charter Service in Michigan. “We keep hearing Congress is getting Asian carp fatigue, but our livelihoods depend on keeping these invasive fish out of the Great Lakes and the only fail-proof solution is separating the two watersheds.”
Currently, there are three electrical barriers located on the Chicago River. These are being utilized as one-way barriers to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, small fish – including Asian carp – can become caught between barges and transported across the electric barriers, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Recently, Congress approved funding for the U.S. Army Corps to undertake a study for alterations at Brandon Road Lock & Dam. While an important step, these upgrades will take up to ten years to complete and are ultimately half measures at best that will fail to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. The region needs an effective and permanent solution as soon as possible.
“Asian carp jumped 66 miles last year,” said Captain Guy Lopez, Owner of Wild Dog Tackle and Good Guyde Service in Illinois. “We cannot watch our livelihood be edged out because Asian carp invade the Great Lakes. We need Congress to require the Army Corps to permanently separate Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.”
Asian carp are voracious eaters, eating up to 20% of their body weight. They spawn rapidly, and can grow to more than 4 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds. To make matters worse, silver carp are easily startled and will jump up to 8 feet out of the water when disturbed by a passing boat. These fish have injured boaters in several states. These destructive fish dominate whole ecosystems, outcompeting native fish, like perch, bass, and walleye, for food and resources.
“The cost of not restoring this natural divide is too high to the region, to be ignored,” said Captain John Sim, Owner of Chante Boat Charters in Ontario. “If Asian carp invade the Great Lakes, they could devastate a $5 billion fishing industry and leave my colleagues and I, who depend on the health of the Great Lakes for our livelihoods, out of business.”
The U.S. Geological Survey has stated Lake Erie is a similar climate to Asian Carp’s native waters in China. Even Ohio’s cold winters and frozen Lake would not be a deterrent to the carp. Rather, Lake Erie’s warmer waters would provide suitable habitat for Asian carp to thrive, threatening a lucrative fishing industry, as Lake Erie provides more fish for human consumption than all of the other Great Lakes combined.
“Invasive species are bad for business and bad for the environment. Once Asian carp arrive, it will be almost impossible to remove them and they are not waiting on Congress to take action,” said Dave Spangler, vice-president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. “Last year on Lake Erie, charter boat captains lost thousands of dollars worth of business from harmful algal blooms and the effects on our businesses will only worsen with the addition of Asian carp.”
Global biological invasions, including the potential carp invasion of the Great Lakes, could cost an estimated $1.4 trillion per year in damages – 5 percent of the global economy.
“We know from experience that aquatic invasive species have devastating impacts on the Great Lakes all the way down the St. Lawrence River. Preventing future invasions is crucial to protect our waters,” said Captain Matt Heath, owner of Seaway Charters. “Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin have invested time and resources to close their connections, and it’s time we finally shut the front door to keep Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.”