Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mississippi River Basin Asian Carp Management is Focus of Capitol Hill Symposium

Asian carp management in the Mississippi River Basin was the main topic of discussion at a March 6, Capitol Hill "Asian Carp Awareness Symposium" held during National Invasive Species Awareness Week and Great Lakes Days.  The Symposium focused on  Federal, state, local, nonprofit and private coordinating efforts and responses to combat invasive Asian carp in the Ohio River, Upper Mississippi River, Lower Mississippi River, Missouri River and Great Lakes basins.  Legislation that has been recently introduced in the U.S. House and Senate was also addressed by several Symposium speakers, including two sponsors of one of those bills, who stressed that the legislation would assist Asian carp control efforts.

Speakers from the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (or ""MICRA") represented and highlighted the extent of Asian carp infiltration in each of the above Mississippi River subwatersheds.  Each MICRA speaker also provided an overview of coordinated efforts to manage that infiltration, emphasizing the current management blueprint of combining various technologies and approaches in an attempt to hold the Asian carp advance at bay.  This attempt to forestall Asian carp upstream movement is designed to provide time for ongoing research to develop new techniques that might more ably control the quickly-spreading carp.  The primary mode of  Asian carp management that Symposium speakers indicated might prove to be fruitful in the short-term is commercial fishing, and its potential - yet untested on a large scale - to manage carp population sizes at the leading edge of their advance up the various Basin streams.

U.S. Representatives Mike Kelly (R-PA-3) and Betty  McCollum (D-MN-4) addressed Symposium attendees regarding the recently reintroduced Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act (H.R.358), and stressed its importance in marshaling a collaborative and efficient Federal effort to combat the spread of Asian carp nationally, and in particular in the Mississippi River Basin.  That bill would direct to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lead and coordinate with the Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, and U.S. Geological Survey in a multiagency effort to slow the spread of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River basins.  The House bill has eleven original co-sponsors (including Kelly and McCollum), and a total of 14 sponsors.  A companion bill (S. 125) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).  That measure currently counts six sponsors, including Brown.  The two bills have been respectively referred to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Asian Carp
Large numbers of several species of non-native, Asian carp have been progressively making their way upstream in the Mississippi River Basin for decades, since their release in the 1970s into the Lower Mississippi River from fish farming operations. Since then, bighead, silver and grass carp (and less extensively  black carp) have been captured throughout much of the Mississippi River watershed from Louisiana to South Dakota, Minnesota and Ohio.

Aquatic Nuisance Species
Each year the number of introduced nonnative aquatic plant and animal species invading the Mississippi River increases.  Once established, these invasive species (“aquatic nuisance species” or “ANS”) are nearly impossible to control, and then only at great expense.  They threaten the sustainability and very existence of the River Valley’s built and natural resources.  Adverse economic, social and environmental impacts include reduced game fish, and native plant and animal populations, ruined boat engines and steering equipment, rivers and lakes made unusable to boaters and swimmers, dramatically increased costs of operating drinking water and power plants, locks, dams and industrial processes, degraded ecosystems, compromised human health and lowered property values.  All of these impacts collectively significantly distress the economy of the region’s many River-dependent communities. The Mississippi River and its principal tributaries provide a highway for ANS to travel from areas as geographically remote as the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes to the interior of the North American continent.  Because of the ability of many nonnative fish species, such as Asian carp, to compete with and displace native species, invasive fish will remain a principal threat to native biodiversity and the economy into the foreseeable future in the Mississippi River drainage.

Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association
Mississippi River Basin Congressional Districts
(click to enlarge)
Started in 1991, MICRA is an organization of 28 state natural resource departments that cooperate to improve fish and other aquatic resource management in the Mississippi River Basin among the member states. MICRA seeks to accomplish that goal through the development of  regional partnerships; one focused on each of the River Basin's subbasins. MICRA's mission is "to improve the conservation, management, development and utilization of interjurisdictional fishery resources  in the Mississippi River Basin through improved coordination and communication among the responsible management entities."

MICRA has developed an "Action Plan to Minimize Ecological Impacts of Aquatic Invasive Species in the Mississippi River Basin," including within the plan, the goal of implementating a "well structured and funded integrated management program (IPM) for AIS in the Basin," "(i)ncluding, and especially, implementation of the Management and Control Plan for Bighead, Black, Grass, and Silver Carps in the United States (Asian Carp Working Group 2007)."

No comments:

Post a Comment