OUR OPINION: No time to waste on Asian carp
"Carp creep," it's called:
The first slide in the U.S. Geological Survey's tracking map shows the situation in 1975. Two red dots show the presence of Asian carp in Arkansas, where they were introduced to filter pond water.
By 1985, the fish have moved up much of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. By 1990, they're into the Missouri.
By 2011, Asian carp have spread throughout the Midwest. They're leaping at the edges of the Great Lakes and are poised to break out into Minnesota's lake country; and if that happens, the worry is that much of the rest of the state's fishery could go belly up.
"In the Illinois River, where the infestation is extreme, 90 percent of the river's biomass is now Asian carp," writes the Asian Carp Coalition on their website, stopcarp.org.
Furthermore, "Asian carp are large fish, some reaching more than 100 pounds ... (And) silver carp are renowned for their ability to jump as high as 10 feet and have injured boaters in other states.
"The potential of Asian carp to discourage boating and displace the prized fisheries of Minnesota will have serious economic consequences."
Clearly, a dedicated national response is overdue. And in Congress, the bipartisan Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act is one result.
The bill now has been introduced in both the House and Senate. In the House, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has signed on, as have Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and three other Minnesota representatives. In the Senate, both of Minnesota's senators are supporters.
The bill "puts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in charge of coordinating a new federal multi-agency effort that includes the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Army Corps of Engineers," writes Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., in a press release.
The agencies also will help state and local governments coordinate their responses.
Fishing and boating in Minnesota not only is a $4 billion a year industry but also a prized element of the state's heritage. Asian carp won't destroy the industry and heritage. But the species' spread could change them for the worse -- and to stop that from happening, our best chance is likely the Strategic Response act, which promises a unified state and federal response.