Coming soon to a Great Lake near you: giant, evil fish out for blood. OK, hopefully not, but it's possible, wildlife experts say, if the new plan to control Asian carp, a pesky freshwater fish with a penchant for destroying some of the U.S.'s greatest natural water habitats, doesn't end successfully.
The fragile ecosystem of the Great Lakes is nothing to be tampered with, and the Obama administration is taking steps to make sure it's not. On Thursday, officials announced that $51.5 million would be invested this year to protect the Great Lakes from the destructive Asian carp.
In case you're wondering, these aren't the same gentle giants that are swimming around in your local pond — these babies grow up to as large as 110 pounds and are capable of eating up to 20 percent of their body weight each day. To put that in perspective, for a 150-pound human, that's 30 pounds of food a day. That's not even Takeru Kobayashi material. There are three species of Asian carp that are considered invasive and a severe threat to the Great Lakes: the bighead, silver and black carp. These species eat plankton, algae, mollusks, mussel and sturgeon in large quantities, which strips the ecosystem of food sources for other types of fish. Think Lake Placid of the carp world.
Say they're just fish, but beware: Asian carp have caused whiplash, broken jaws and noses. Concussions and severe boat damage are some of the "charges" alleged by boaters caught off guard. The fish literally "jump" as high as 10 feet in the air, causing swarms of volatile flying fish. Not kidding.
The money will implement strategies to control the fish, including DNA testing, underwater cameras, trapping and netting, scent testing to "lure" the carp to a capture area, development of an acoustic water gun to scare carp from endangered areas and poisons to directly target Asian carp without harming native species.
What's most interesting about the investment is that we're the ones who brought these fish foes to U.S. waters in the first place; they were imported from Southeast Asian in the '70's to control algae in water treatment facilities and farm ponds. Not surprisingly, the species escaped confinement and found their way into the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers. The Illinois River is also connected to the Great Lakes system. Should the carp invade the Great Lakes system (it's possible some already have), scientists say it could cause up to $7 million in damages to the fishing industry, not to mention adversely impacting the Great Lakes' tourism industry by detracting from the safety of recreational lake activities.
The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee advises people who come across Asian carp to freeze the fish in sealed plastic bags and immediately contact their state's Department of Natural Resources or Environmental Conservation.