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[ATG] AG: Corps of Engineers’ Asian carp report lacking Indiana attention
Start Date: 1/7/2014Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 1/7/2014
Entry Description

INDIANAPOLIS – Problems caused by the spread of voracious Asian carp into Indiana’s rivers and streams don’t receive adequate attention in a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research report on the carp infestation, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said today.  He called upon the Corps of Engineers to hold a public meeting in Indiana as it is doing in other states so that there will be renewed focus on Hoosiers whose river communities are impacted by the invasive species.

“Seven years in the making, this report offers costly suggestions for the Chicago region and Great Lakes but very little that would address the impact of Asian carp on our iconic Wabash River and other Hoosier waterways.  Having personally eyewitnessed these invasive jumping carp that crowd out native fish and are a nuisance to boaters, and having met with concerned constituents in our river communities, I know that there needs to be more focus on current efforts to  control Asian carp with the goal of eventual eradication in our waterways,” Zoeller said.

Congress in 2007 directed the Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to research and report on how to contain the invasion of Asian carp into the Great Lakes along with a projection of potential costs.  After studying containment for seven years in an effort to protect the Great Lakes fishing industry, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was the lead agency issuing the report Monday that contains eight suggestions but not specific recommendations, leaving critical decisions to Congress and states. 

As the lawyer for state government, Zoeller in mid-July 2013 toured the Wabash River from Wabash, Ind., to New Harmony, Ind.  Zoeller stopped and met with citizens and community leaders at various points along the river to discuss the spread of the invasive fish and impact on the ecosystem.  This was a follow-up to Zoeller’s similar inspection tour down the Ohio River in July 2012.

Non-native Asian carp have spread northward up the Mississippi River since they inadvertently were released from fish hatcheries in the South in the 1970s.  Two species now have established themselves in Indiana waterways:  the bighead carp, which can grow to four feet long and 90 pounds, and the silver carp, which swarm and leap out of the water in large numbers at the sound of boat motors and can injure passing boaters.  Asian carp are voracious plankton-eaters that reduce the water quality by killing off organisms that filter the water.  Disrupting the food chain, Asian carp outcompete more desirable native fish for food and space.

Because of concern that Asian carp could spread from Eagle Marsh near Fort Wayne into the Maumee River basin and then into Lake Erie, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) constructed a chain-link fence barrier to screen out the fish.  The Corps of Engineers report references Eagle Marsh only briefly.

As part of its containment efforts, the Corps of Engineers operates an electronic barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan, but the Corps last month announced that new research shows schools of fish can breach the electronic barrier.  If the prolific Asian carp ever become established in the lower Great Lakes, they could do great damage to the commercial fishing industry there.

Zoeller expressed concern that history not repeat itself with costly efforts, noting the tens of millions of dollars that the federal government and states have spent to try to control another invasive fish in the Great Lakes, the parasitic Sea Lamprey, using lampricide to kill larvae.

“Hoosiers didn’t cause the Asian carp problem in our waterways and the engineering options the Corps has offered are expensive but don’t directly address the underlying environmental and economic problems that carp pose to Wabash River communities in our state, and we need to reorient that focus,” Zoeller said.

Although consumed in other parts of the world, Asian carp have not yet caught on as a food fish in the United States.  The carp won’t bite on a bait and hook and must be taken by net or bowfishing.  If a viable market for Asian carp products could be developed – not just food fish but agricultural products such as fertilizer and pet food – then commercial fishing could help reduce the carp’s numbers in Indiana, Zoeller said.

While the Corps of Engineers has announced it will conduct a series of public meetings on its research report in other Great Lakes states, it has not yet announced any for Indiana, and Zoeller urged the Corps to schedule a meeting here so that Hoosier stakeholders can participate.

NOTE:  More information about the Attorney General's inspection of the Wabash River in July 2013 is at this link:

http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=7/1/2013&todate=7/31/2013&display=Month&type=public&eventidn=113027&view=EventDetails&information_id=184643

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