U.S. SUPREME COURT vs ‘FLYING’ ASIAN CARP
ARMY CORPS of ENGINEERS as CODEFENDANT
GREAT LAKES INFECTED?
LAWS OF NATURE
Mich. files suit in US high court over Asian carp
BY John Flesher (AP) – Dec 21, 2009
Michigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to close shipping locks near Chicago to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and endangering their $7 billion fishery. State Attorney General Mike Cox filed a lawsuit Monday with the nation’s highest court against Illinois, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. They operate canals and other waterways that open into Lake Michigan.
Bighead and silver carp from Asia have been detected in those waterways after migrating north in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers for decades. Officials poisoned a section of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal this month to prevent the carp from getting closer to Lake Michigan while an electrical barrier was taken down for maintenance. But scientists say DNA found north of the barrier suggest at least some of the carp have gotten through and may be within 6 miles of Lake Michigan. If so, the only other obstacle between them and the lake are shipping locks, which open frequently to grant passage for cargo vessels.
Fifty members of Congress last week joined environmental groups in urging closure of the locks — the same demand made in Michigan’s lawsuit. “The Great Lakes are an irreplaceable resource,” Cox, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Michigan, said at a news conference in Detroit. “Thousands of jobs are at stake and we will not get a second chance once the carp enter Lake Michigan.” He likened the fish to “nuclear bombs.” Cox went directly to the Supreme Court because it handles disputes between states. Michigan is seeking to reopen a case dating back more than a century, when Missouri filed suit after Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River and began sending sewage-fouled Lake Michigan water south toward the Mississippi River.
After that issue was resolved, several Great Lakes states — including Michigan — renewed the suit with a new complaint: Chicago’s diversion of water away from the basin was harming the lakes by lowering water levels. The high court has ruled on the matter numerous times, setting ceilings on the amount of Lake Michigan water Chicago could divert. The present limit is 2.1 billion gallons per day. Michigan’s suit argues that continued operation of the locks represents another potential injury to the lakes. It asks the court to immediately order them closed, and to create new barriers to prevent the carp from entering the ship canal from nearby waterways during floods.
Obama administration officials last week pledged $13 million to prevent carp from bypassing the electronic barrier by migrating between the Des Plaines River and the canal. The lawsuit also asks the Supreme Court to require a study of the Chicago waterway system to define where and how many carp are in those waters and to eradicate them. Noah Hall, an assistant professor at Wayne State University’s law school, said Michigan has a good chance of prevailing if it can show the potential harm posed by Asian carp would outweigh the benefits of keeping the locks open. “The carp invasion is a good textbook example of irreparable harm,” Hall said.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office was reviewing the suit and had no immediate comment, spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District spokeswoman Jill Horist called the lawsuit “unfortunate.” “It’s unfortunate that there would be an assumption that this would make some positive resolution come sooner than is truly feasible,” Horist said. “Even if the locks were closed there’s still a variety of ways for DNA or Asian carp to enter Lake Michigan.” Messages left with the Army Corps of Engineers seeking comment were not returned.
Rep. Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, praised the lawsuit.”There is nothing more pressing than stopping this aggressive invasive species from entering Lake Michigan and threatening our lake’s environment and all the states’ economies in the Great Lakes Basin,” Miller said. Environmentalists said closing the locks would be a temporary fix, but the only long-term solution would be restoring the natural separation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system. “The Chicago diversion was a 19th century solution to an environmental problem. Now it’s causing a 21st century emergency,” said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes center.
POLICY DETERMINED, BUDGET ALLOCATED
Feds to spend $13M to fight Asian carp invasion
BY John Flesher / Dec 14, 2009
Federal officials said Monday they would use $13 million in Great Lakes restoration funds to step up the fight against invasive Asian carp. Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the money will be used for engineering projects to prevent the carp from slipping into Lake Michigan near Chicago. They include closing conduits and shoring up low-lying lands between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal — which leads to the lake — and other waterways. The ravenous carp have been migrating northward in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers for decades. Scientists say if they get into the Great Lakes, they could gobble up plankton, interrupt the food chain and devastate the $7 billion fishery.
Federal and state officials poisoned a six-mile section of the canal this month to prevent the carp from getting closer to Lake Michigan while an electrical barrier was taken down for maintenance. They have promised to consider other measures. Michigan officials are preparing a lawsuit demanding at least temporary closure of shipping locks on the canal, part of a roughly 300-mile waterway linking the lake with the Mississippi. That’s opposed by tug and barge companies that haul millions of tons of iron ore, coal and other cargo on the waterway. While debate on a long-term plan continues, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will use some of the newly designated funds to block potential bypasses between the sanitary and ship canal and two nearby waterways believed already to have Asian carp: the Des Plaines River and the I&M Canal. Scientists fear the carp might be washed from those waterways into the sanitary and ship canal above the electrical barrier during flooding caused by heavy rains.
The rest of the money will provide DNA testing in hopes of determining how far the carp have advanced, Army Corps spokeswoman Lynne Whelan said. Congress this fall appropriated $475 million to kick off a comprehensive restoration of the Great Lakes, including cleanup of contaminated harbors, wildlife habitat improvements and crackdowns on runoff pollution and species invasions. The $13 million to battle the Asian carp will be drawn from that fund, which President Barack Obama requested. The fund has “given us what we need to significantly and immediately reduce the risk of Asian carp reaching the Great Lakes and destroying such a valuable ecosystem,” Jackson said.
Officials with federal agencies involved in the carp battle met last week with members of Congress who pushed for spending up to $30 million over the next year. “I want to be clear that our work on this is not done and we’ll continue to aggressively work to protect the Great Lakes from this dangerous creature,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. “Allowing the Asian carp into the Great Lakes is simply unacceptable.” Henry Henderson, Midwest director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the planned spending was worthwhile but a stopgap measure. Environmental groups want to sever the link between the Great Lakes and Mississippi systems created by engineers more than a century ago. “We need a permanent solution, not a series of ad hoc barriers,” Henderson said.
GREAT LAKES AT WAR
Minnesota, Ohio join lawsuit against Illinois over Asian carp
BY Mark Guarino / December 29, 2009
Minnesota and Ohio have joined Michigan in a lawsuit against Illinois in the battle keep Asian carp from the Mississippi Basin from invading the Great Lakes through a historic Chicago canal. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced her state’s involvement in the lawsuit on Monday after judging that the presence of the Asian Carp along the state’s 149-mile shoreline on Lake Superior would directly threaten the state’s commercial and recreational fishing industries, which together generate $2.7 billion. “We pride ourselves on outdoor recreation; we call ourselves ‘The Land of 10,000 Lakes’,” she said in a phone interview. “We do think it is a public emergency.” The total revenue from fishing and tourism on the Great Lakes amounts to $7 billion.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox’s lawsuit last week asked the US Supreme Court to order Illinois state agencies and the US Army Corps of Engineers to close the O’Brien Lock and Dam and Chicago Controlling Works, two critical junctions of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The historic waterway was built in the 1920s to divert sewage away from Chicago and to provide a commerce route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Linking river traffic to Lake Michigan resulted in booming commerce for the Midwest, resulting in $30 million in annual revenue, according to the American Waterways Operators (AWO), a trade association representing the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry. But it also introduced a potential environmental disaster: the Asian carp, a bottom feeder, one of which was discovered in the canal close to Lake Michigan in early December, the northernmost finding of the fish in North America. The carp is thought to have traveled up the canal from Mississippi and Arkansas, where the fish was first introduced to help control algae growth on catfish farms in the 1970s.
The local shipping industry has argued that closing the canal locks will damage the shipping industry. But Minnesota’s Ms. Swanson says that argument is shortsighted and inadequate when set against the possible destruction of the Great Lakes. “There’s no monetary comparison to an ecosystem,” she says. “They’re an American treasure. Once you contaminate them with Asian carp, that treasure is jeopardized and can’t be changed. You can’t pay Michigan or Ohio or Minnesota enough money to ruin the Great Lakes. Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray also joined the lawsuit. His office says Asian carp in Lake Erie could cripple the $680 million earned in recreation fishing each year.
The lawsuit grounds its case on three 1929 complaints pitting Wisconsin, Michigan and New York against Illinois. Those complaints charged that the canal’s reversal of the water flow away from Lake Michigan was illegal. The Supreme Court declared the canal unlawful one year later in 1930, but never ordered it shut over the following years but only sought to regulate it. Mr. Cox says if the court will not reopen the old case, he will file a new case charging the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources with allowing pollutants to contaminate the Great Lakes system. The lawsuit is on the high court’s agenda Jan. 8.
“Crews dump rotenone in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal on Thursday in Lockport, Ill. The fish-toxic chemical was dumped on a nearly 6-mile stretch of the canal as part of efforts to keep the voracious and invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.”
RIVERS PREVENTIVELY POISONED
Chicago river poisoned to block feared Asian carp
BY Andrew Stern / December 3, 2009
Authorities scooped up poisoned fish floating to the surface of a Chicago-area waterway on Thursday in an operation designed to keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and prevent an ecological disaster. Illinois officials said a single Bighead carp, one of two prolific species of Asian carp viewed as a threat, had turned up in the huge fish kill that began overnight along 6 miles of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal southwest of the city. Poison was dumped into the waterway so maintenance could be performed on an electrical barrier that is designed to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes. The Asian carp was found some 40 miles from Lake Michigan, which was the closest to the Great Lakes the species has been found, authorities said.
Some 200,000 pounds (90 tons) of dead fish are expected to be collected, weighed, inventoried, and dumped in a landfill over the next few days. Most of the dead fish scooped up so far have been native carp and shad. Silver carp and the Asian Bighead, which can grow to 5 feet and weigh more than 100 pounds (45 kg), have come to dominate sections of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Authorities fear that if the carp swim up to the Great Lakes, the largest fresh-water resource in the world, they could create an “ecological disaster” by consuming the bottom of the food chain and ruining the lakes’ $7 billion fishery.
Since 1990s floods allowed the carp to escape into rivers from research facilities and commercial fish ponds in the South, where they were introduced to clean away weeds and other detritus, the carp have multiplied and become a “nuisance species,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Along some stretches of the Illinois River, the carp make up 95 percent of the biomass and they are considered poor for eating or as a game fish. Silver carp, which leap into the air when disturbed by passing motorboats, have injured boaters.
Two electrical barriers in the canal were erected in 2002 and 2006 to shock any fish, particularly carp, that try to swim up the canal to Lake Michigan. The newer barrier is being switched off to perform maintenance on it. To give themselves a window to complete the task and keep any carp at bay below the barrier, authorities dumped into the canal more than 2,000 pounds (900 kg) of the natural poison rotenone that prevents fish gills from absorbing oxygen. The toxin, which is used as a broad-spectrum insecticide and pesticide, kills fish and freshwater snails but does not harm other animals. It dissipates within two days, though authorities planned to introduce a neutralizing agent to speed up the process.
Notre Dame University scientists recently detected carp DNA on the lake side of the barriers, which could indicate the carp have already passed them and the effort is either too little or too late. Fishermen have been asked to look out for the invasive carp on the lake side of the barriers. The DNA discovery led some environmentalists to call for river locks to be shut and ask for permanent separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has indicated her state might demand locks be closed permanently. But the shipping industry argued that would be a costly mistake. The American Waterways Operators, which represents barge operators and other water shippers, said 15 million tons a year of commodities including oil, cement, iron, coal and road salt would be disrupted or halted.
THE LESSON? DEAD CARP SINK
Cleanup near Chicago yields just 1 bighead
BY Tina Lam / Dec 4, 2009
As cleanup and Asian carp-searching efforts continued after a massive poisoning in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal on Thursday, officials said they had found a lone Asian carp among the 200,000 pounds of dead fish. The bighead carp, nearly 22 inches long, was found just above the lock and dam at Lockport. That’s one of many spots where DNA testing since July has shown the presence of carp. The find is important because it established that the DNA testing is correct. That same testing has shown that there are carp just below an even more critical lock, the O’Brien lock, 7 miles from Lake Michigan.
A biologist who tested the poison on carp said Thursday that the fact that more carp weren’t showing up dead in the canal wasn’t surprising, since his tests showed they would sink to the bottom. “There is a chance someone will find one or two,” wrote Duane Chapman, a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Missouri. Finding the single carp Thursday will only increase the drumbeat to close the canal off from Lake Michigan. “We’re concerned,” said Dan Thomas, president of the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has pushed for several years to try to get studies done about how the engineering work might be done, said Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.
The canal was built more than 100 years ago to let ships move between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin, and to allow Chicago to flush its waste down the river. Now, it’s become a pathway for invasive species to pass back and forth between the bodies of water. “It benefits Chicago, but the states around it have to ask, ‘What are we getting from it?’ ” said Gaden. The dead bighead carp was found during fish cleanup work Thursday along a 5 1/2-mile stretch of the canal from Lockport to a point just above an electric barrier built to keep carp out of the Great Lakes.
The discovery of one dead carp may not sound significant. But in an e-mail, a biologist who has studied Asian carp for more than two decades — and did the research to find out how much poison would kill them — said he never expected any Asian carp to be found floating among the dead fish in the canal. Instead, in tests he did, they plummeted to the bottom. “I have a strong doubt that we will see any bighead or silver carp for a few days or more, if ever, after the poisoning is done,” wrote Duane Chapman, a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Missouri. That doesn’t mean they weren’t there, he said.
Along the canal where 350 people from various agencies poisoned 200,000 pounds of fish, security was tight Thursday, apparently partly out of fear that animal rights activists might try to enter the area. Gaden said it was unfortunate that news media weren’t allowed to see or photograph piles of dead fish being hauled from the shore by crane. “I want people to see dead fish,” he said. “It shows what drastic measures we have to take when we don’t prevent invasive species from getting in in the first place.” With the canal shut to barge and pleasure boat traffic, government boats crisscrossed the canal all day, carrying nets to scoop up flopping fish. Fish specialists examined the fish, looking for Asian carp, and found the lone bighead near the dam.
Bighead and silver carp are both considered dangerous to fish in the Great Lakes. But only the silver carp is on a national list of species labeled injurious, meaning it’s illegal to transport, sell or import them. In 2005, experts said bighead were a high and unacceptable risk to native wildlife and requested that bighead be put on the list. States can create their own bans, but a federal prohibition is more far-reaching and secure. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., introduced a bill in July that would require bighead to be listed. At a Senate hearing Thursday, held before the bighead was found in Illinois, Levin urged his colleagues to pass the bill swiftly. Asian carp were brought into the United States decades ago to clean up sewage ponds, but escaped in the 1970s into the Mississippi River and began their journey north to the canal.
Ellie Koon of the National Fish and Wildlife Service helped pick up dead and dying fish hours after the poison, rotenone, was dumped in the canal. Koon’s usual job in Ludington, Mich., is to use a fish toxin to kill sea lamprey, an invasive fish that wrecked the Great Lakes fishery in the 1950s. Koon said her own opinion, based on her 25 years of work on sea lamprey, is that everything possible should be done to stop even a small number of Asian carp from getting into the lakes. “We now spend millions of dollars a year just to control one invasive species, sea lamprey,” she said. “We can’t let Asian carp get by.”
NEXT LEVEL : CARP BOWHUNTING
DYSTOPIAN ECOTOURISM [WEAR A HELMET]
PROPOSAL TO ADD CARP TO STATE PRISON MENUS
Invasive Asian Carp Inspire Lawsuits, Extreme Archery
BY Katie Drummond / Dec. 29, 2009
They’re the “nuclear bombs” of American waterways. That’s the analogy Michigan attorney general Mike Cox has drawn for the Asian carp, which is rapidly taking over stretches of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers — so rapidly, in fact, that his state is now seeking a legal injunction to help prevent the carp from invading the Great Lakes. Cox’s hope is that the courts accomplish what science could not: A recent experiment with poison in the Chicago river killed 90 tons-worth of fish, but only one carp was among the deceased.
Still, if you haven’t been following the coverage, it can be a puzzler: All this fuss, over a fish? Just who are these marauding, cockroach-tough swimmers that have state lawmakers, the commercial fishing industry and justifiably skittish boaters in a tizzy? A primer on this fear-inducing “missile with fins”:
1) They Haven’t Always Been the Enemy: “Asian carp” designates eight different major species of fish, of which only four — grass, black, silver and bighead — are considered invasive species in American waters. (Nor are all carp mutant-sized monsters that can grow to reach 100 pounds. The common goldfish, also known as Carassius auratus, is among the carp family too.) The fish were imported to the U.S in the 1970s to remove algae from commercial catfish ponds. Then, in the early 1990s, they rode flood waters into Mississippi waterways, and the trouble was under way.
2. They’re hearty eaters: The four common species currently in U.S. rivers will eat pretty much anything, and a lot of it — they consume nearly half their body weight in food every day — which can overwhelm native fish populations. Bighead and silver carps are “filter-feeders” that nosh on plankton; black carp eat mussels and snails. Silver carp don’t even have stomachs, allowing them to chow pretty much all the time.
3. They’re a big hit on YouTube: Carp have adapted to quiet lake bottoms and backwaters and are apt to jump at the sound of approaching watercraft. Jet skis and motor boats send them flying — up to 6 feet into the air. Footage of wildly flopping, airborne carp has become fodder for viral online videos, but the fish are a genuine danger to recreational boaters: The U.S. Geological Survey has likened an encounter with a leaping carp to “being hit with a thrown bowling ball.”
4. They’re remarkably resilient: How to kill a carp? Not with the aforementioned poison. Nor will suffocation or starvation get the job done: Grass carp, for instance, can live under the ice of frozen-over rivers and lakes and survive on very little food; other species go into a state of “suspended animation” to make it through periods of scarce sustenance and can survive for periods of time out of the water. Although recent reports suggest that carp might be dying off in some waterways, a comparison of carp levels from 1990 to 2000 shows how prolifically the fish, especially the bigheads, can expand their population in just a year.
5. They’ve inspired at least one new outdoor hobby: Not everyone’s upset over the Asian carp invasion, which for some innovative outdoor lovers has given rise to a new pursuit: fishing (or hunting?) for carp with a bow and arrow. Wisconsin resident Sam Woods is among them, and he likes to drive to the Illinois River to shoot the fish as they jump. “They’re awesome,” Woods told CBS. “If I don’t put 200 fish a night in the boat, I’m pretty disgusted with myself.”
6. They pair well with a nice white wine: The futility of other Asian carp abatement efforts is prompting some, such as Illinois State Sen. Mike Jacobs, to suggest an alternate approach: If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em. Jacobs has advocated for adding carp to state prison menus, but you don’t need to be locked up to dine on the fish, which is consumed widely in Asia. Illinois State University helpfully points to a few recipes — for fried carp, and for smoked carp two ways — and notes that some testers even preferred the taste of the fish to canned tuna.
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VIKING MICE (+ MUMMY LICE)
BAD MOVES IN CENTRAL PLANNING : DEATH TO SPARROWS
INVASIVE SPECIES PRIMER
BY Rona Kobell / Officials swap stories of battle against invasive species
Social pressure, regulations discussed as tools to prevent spread of unwanted plants, animals
Spiny water fleas, furry mitten crabs, northern snakeheads, dead man’s fingers-they all sound like something out of a horror movie. But unfortunately, the story of the invaders that took over the nation’s seas is all too real. These marauders enter our waterways, either introduced accidentally or on purpose, and within a few short years, many establish breeding populations. They gobble up native fish and native habitats. With no natural predators, there’s no stopping their growth. They breed like rabbits-or, as the case may be, nutria. With nature unable to control them, wildlife managers try their best-but often, they’re simply too late and the results are devastating.
Invaders take several paths into the waterways. Some are brought in for a specific reason, and then things go terribly wrong. MSX, one of two diseases that have devastated native oyster populations, was accidentally brought to the East Coast with foreign oysters imported for research. In December, the Mid-Atlantic Panel of Aquatic Nuisance Species met in Baltimore to discuss the various vectors for bringing in the invaders and how to better manage them. The panel, which was organized by Maryland Sea Grant, was established in 2003. It took the place of the Bay Program’s Invasive Species Workgroup and, based on lessons learned here and elsewhere, is aimed at preventing new invasions when possible, and containing them when prevention doesn’t work. “Some of them hang out in a bay and stay for 50 years, and don’t spread-until they do,” said James Carlton, director of the Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies Program at Williams College in Massachusetts.
The case of the Asian carp and the Great Lakes is an example of the threat an invasive species can pose, and the millions of dollars in effort it takes to combat it. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought the Asian carp to the United States, seeking a natural weed killer. In the 1970s, catfish farmers in the Southeast began importing them as a natural pond cleaner. But floods in the Mississippi caused the ponds to overflow, and the carp swam into the great river. In some parts of the Mississippi, the voracious carp is the dominant species. They can weigh up to 100 pounds and can consume 40 percent of their body weight daily. They have no natural predators, and are so bony that U.S. consumers don’t want to eat them.
The carp was recently discovered in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a man-made body of water connecting the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes. The Army Corps of Engineers has an electronic barrier at the canal to stop the fish from entering the Great Lakes. But Michigan authorities are complaining that the electronic barrier-which costs $40,000 a month to power-is not enough to keep the carp from the Great Lakes. They want the Corps to close the canal and protect Michigan’s $7 billion tourism/recreational fishing industry. But, closing the canal would disrupt a huge amount of interstate commerce between the Mississippi and the Great Lakes, and the Corps is planning to use federal stimulus money to erect another barrier to further insulate the Great Lakes. So, in 40 years, the Asian carp has gone from a helpful pond cleaner to a multimillion-dollar nuisance.
The northern snakehead hasn’t proven to be the nuisance that Asian Carp is, but it’s still worrisome that scientists have discovered hundreds of them in the Potomac River and several of its Northern Virginia tributaries. Scientists believe the snakeheads got to the Potomac sometime around 2002, when a male and female were dumped into Dogue Creek. So far, the bass in the river are tolerating the voracious Chinese fish, but scientists worry the peaceful co-existence won’t last long, given snakeheads’ copious breeding practices. Live bait is also an excellent vector for invasive species. Fishermen should never release unused bait into the water or leave it on shore. They should save it, give it to another angler or put it in their freezer.
In Montana, where recreational boaters have unwittingly spread invasive mussels that hitched a ride on their boat bottoms, managers are turning to social marketing to get the word out. Robert Wiltshire, founder and director of the Center for Aquatic Nuisance Species, said that it’s not enough to tell people to clean their boats. It has to be socially important for them to do so. Managers can appeal to the environmental sensibilities of a fly fisherman in a canoe, but Wiltshire said, that same message wouldn’t go over well with a jet skier. “We can’t do this through regulation. The real action is through peer-to-peer sharing,” Wiltshire said. “You need your fishing buddy to tell you to clean your boat, not the Game Board.” One way to do that, he said, is to reach out to professional athletes in competitions such as the X-Games.
The biggest conduit for aquatic invasive species, though, is ballast water used to balance ships that travel the world. Carlton, of the Mystic maritime program, said the nation’s scientists and port managers must work together to reduce the surprises. For decades, environmentalists have pushed for stricter federal standards. And when they didn’t materialize, many states took matters into their own hands. In 2000, Washington state required ships to exchange their ballast water 50 miles from shore. Oregon and California soon followed suit. In 2004-eight years after Congress passed a voluntary program to regulate ballast water, the Coast Guard required ships to flush ballast water from their tanks and replace it with ocean water when they were at least 200 miles from shore. But most of the ships couldn’t comply with that standard.
Gregory Ruiz, who studies invasives and ballast water at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD, said the exchanges, while “better than nothing” are an imperfect answer. The exchange does not get rid of all organisms. And it can be dangerous for a ship to destabilize itself in the middle of the ocean. Over the last several years, the shipping industry and marine scientists have agreed that onboard treatment systems using chemicals to kill all of the invasive species are a far better option. The Coast Guard is now proposing that all ships have a treatment system on board by 2016.
The Chesapeake Bay is now home to 170 invasive species, from the invasive reed, phragmites, to nutria, a foreign muskrat, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the shellfish-eating rapa whelk in Virginia and zebra mussels in the Susquehanna. Bay policy makers didn’t really start to study the problem of invasive species until the mid-1990s, when they were already clearly a problem in San Francisco Bay and the Great Lakes. But now, the Chesapeake is one of two places in the country where new ballast water treatment systems are being tested. The Maritime Environmental Resource Center, which does its research aboard the Cape Washington near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, is testing ballast water treatment options. Part of a partnership between the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and the Maryland Port Administration, the center is also looking at ways to limit hull fouling from invasive species and to rein in air emissions from ships.
POPULAR TO EAT ELSEWHERE
Asian carp cause problems in the region’s waterways
BY Steve Vantreese / The Paducah Sun / August 20, 2008
A quiet invasion makes for troubled waters on the area’s big rivers and some related backwater slough lakes. The lower Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers nowadays teem with a pair of carp species that aren’t native to American waterways. Indeed, bighead carp and silver carp are Asian in origin. Arkansas fish farmers imported the fish as pond cleaners in the 1970s. But the Asians escaped their commercial surroundings when floodwaters came calling to lowland ponds in 1993.
In the 16 years since their accidental release, bighead and silver carp proliferated in the Mississippi River, then blew up in numbers in all the major tributaries, including the lower Ohio and the far downstream ends of the Tennessee and Cumberland. Rather than being a mere addition to rivers, streams and lakes, Asian carp force themselves among those swimming local waters. But that’s especially true for huge numbers of large fish — silver carp easily reach 30 pounds and bighead carp potentially double that size and more.
Paul Rister is the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources fisheries biologist for the state’s westernmost waters. He said vast numbers of Asian carp could undermine the food base for other fish. As filter feeders, the bighead and silver carp strain small organisms, algae and plankton, from the water. The vast population of them might dramatically reduce this material, which is a basic food source for juvenile fish of many species and a primary food source for shad and paddlefish. “Shad are filter feeders, too, and they’re a chief food for most sport fish species,” Rister said. “If shad go down because of the competition from Asian carp, then we don’t have as much for sport fish to live on. “One of our chief concerns is for paddlefish, which compete directly with Asians because they’re all filter feeders,” Rister said. “Paddlefish are clearly in poorer condition than what we’ve seen in the past. “We’ve seen bighead and silver carp use the oxbow lakes that are occasionally flooded by the rivers as nursery areas,” he said. Oxbow lakes are bow-shaped lakes formed in a former channel of a river. “The paddlefish use them, too, and they compete for the same food there,” Rister said. “The paddlefish we’ve seen in the oxbows are emaciated.” Fishing pressure to hook paddlefish for their eggs compounds the species’ problems. Paddlefish eggs satisfy an inflated caviar market as a substitute for sturgeon roe.
Adult Asian carp found in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley are thought to have passed through navigational locks to reach the reservoirs. They are not thought to be reproducing in the lakes, however. Thus the numbers of bighead and silver carp reportedly are modest in comparison to the masses seen in the rivers and river-flooded oxbow lakes. “They do especially well in the bottomland lakes,” said Doug Henley, a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Ohio River biologist. “To reproduce, they need running water like they have in the rivers, but the larval fish that they produce by spawning need the backwater areas as nurseries. There, they really compete with small native fish for plankton. “The 2- and 3-inch crappie that are in the oxbows might end up without enough food when there’s a mass of Asian carp in there, and that’s where you get a bottleneck of all these mouths to feed and too little food,” Henley said. “That’s one way you get stunted fish.”
A wild abundance of fish might seem to be a bounty instead of a blight to a commercial fisherman, but it all has to do with public demand. “They’re tasty fish, but there’s no local market for Asian carp,” said Ronnie Hopkins of Ledbetter, a commercial fishermen and one of a few who nets silver and bighead carp intentionally. “I’ve got my own market, but I just ship them out as I get orders for them,” he said. “I can usually catch all I need to keep the orders filled.” Hopkins said existing demand primarily is ethnic in origin, people who are culturally inclined to eating silver and bighead carp. But with the huge resource of Asian carp in area rivers and lakes, consequently, processing facilities are needed to turn the invaders into ground fish patties or other forms that can be used in the mass market.
In the interest of improving the fish populations on some of Ballard County’s state-owned small lakes, Hopkins has done some contracted netting to remove Asian carp from them. He also nets on the Ohio as demand rises for Asian carp as a food fish. “We’re eat up with them, but you have to go to the kind of places they go to catch them,” he said. “On the river, they like to go where there’s swift water next to dead water and net along the edge there.”
Hopkins said silver carp are notorious for jumping when disturbed, and this behavior has proved painful for fishermen and boaters in this region. “They’re shaped like torpedoes, and they hit just as hard when you’re running along in the boat and you run into one,” he said. “I was just out running a net and had about 15 of them jump into the boat while I was working,” Hopkins said. “One of them hit me in the back, and it was like somebody hit me with a ball bat.”
The U.S. Geological Survey has issued information cautioning boaters about the jumping behavior of silver carp. The warning equates a leaping silver carp striking a power boat passenger with getting hit with a thrown bowling ball. Asian carp also damage commercial fishing equipment, Hopkins said. A large school of these bullet-shaped exotics can destroy fishing nets designed for other species, he said.
Ohio River biologist Henley said the stronghold of the Asian carp seems to be in the lowest portion of the Ohio, with both silvers and bigheads growing markedly less plentiful in the Louisville, Ky., area and upstream. Hopkins said despite their downstream plenty, Asian carp seem to be still on the upswing in the lower reaches in the Ohio River and in the lowest portions of the Tennessee and Cumberland. “Their population is getting stronger every year,” he said. “They’re taking over.”
ALL WAY DOWN TO LOUISIANA
GOV’T CAJUN/JERK COOKING SHOW
Protect the environment, eat jumping fish
BY Nikki Buskey / 12/28/2009
Houma, La. – They’re big, ugly and have been known to leap from the water and smack boating fishermen. Asian carp have begun infiltrating area bayous and freshwater lakes, but how can Cajuns defend themselves against these aquatic invaders? The best way we know how: By cooking and eating them. “Invasive fish are very difficult to control, especially when you’re in an open system like this,” said Michael Massimi, invasive-species coordinator for the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. “Developing a demand is going to help.” In an attempt to battle infiltrating silver carp, Glenn Thomas, marine-extension leader with Louisiana Sea Grant, and Duane Chapman, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Columbia, Mo., teamed up to make video that is part cooking show and part fish-and-game report. The film provides step-by-step coaching on the proper way to clean and cook Asian carp.
Invasive silver carp, a species of Asian carp, are large filter-feeding fish that eat algae and plankton. The fish were intentionally introduced to the United States in the 1970s to help manage aquaculture ponds and wastewater lagoons. They quickly escaped into the wild where their populations have grown exponentially in the Mississippi River basin. Native to large rivers and associated floodplains in eastern Asia, the carp were first found in Louisiana waters in the 1980s. They reproduce quickly and, with their large size and hunger for plankton, they could pose a threat to native filter-feeding fish, like the big-mouth buffalo and the paddlefish, with also eat plankton. Silver carp have been found locally, likely because of spreading caused by freshwater floods and spillway openings in spring 2008, Massimi said. Their movements into Terrebonne and Lafourche are limited by their low saltwater tolerance. Locally, silver carp have a confirmed population in Lake Field. They are also rumored to be found in Lake Verret.
The fish are easy to identify. They have small, downward-facing eyes, a stout body and protruding lower jaw. Silver carp commonly exceed 20 pounds. Record catches have approached 100 pounds, Thomas said. But the silver carp is best known for an unusual and dangerous survival behavior. When startled by the sound of a boat motor, it attempts to flee danger by jumping skyward, frequently hitting boats and people. The action has earned them the nickname, “flying carp,” Massimi said. “As you can imagine, getting hit by a 50 or 60 pound carp can cause serious problems,” Massimi said. The fish have been known to cause boating accidents, black eyes, bruises and more severe injuries.
Trying to promote annoying invasive species as a tasty treat is a worthwhile tactic, but it might be difficult to pull off, Massimi said. Since the fish eat algae, they don’t tend to bite on hooks. Chapman, however, said that might make the fish a more exciting target for anglers. “You can go bowfishing or wait for them to jump in the boat,” Chapman said. “Commercial fishermen catch them in hoop-and-gill nets in Illinois.” Massimi, who tried Chapman and Thomas’ carp recipes at a recent state coastal meeting said the fish are delicious and taste like “fresh catfish.” Silver and bighead carp have moist, white mild flesh, he said. The larger carp yield meaty fillets. But their unusual bone structure does make them difficult to clean, a drawback that can make fishermen wary.
In the video, Chapman demonstrates his unique cleaning methods. He also demonstrates three cooking methods: blackened fillets, grilled fillets and a fried, bone-in preparation he calls ‘flying carp wings’. “You eat the fish off the bone, just like a chicken wing,” Massimi said. The fish, regardless of how they are captured or cook, do need to be put on ice quickly, he said, because they spoil easily. The instructional video was filmed and produced by the LSU AgCenter. The 27-minute video will be available on DVD from Louisiana Sea Grant in the spring.
RECIPES (SEND MORE)
From the Kitchen of Duane Chapman, USGS Fish Biologist
Recipes for Fry-Cut Asian Carp Strips
Fried Asian Carp
1) Fry-cut silver carp strips (cut in the manner described in Carp Lemonade – most pieces will contain 2-4 large bones, while some pieces will be boneless).
2) Dry cornmeal-based seasoning (pre-mixed, or make your own from yellow cornmeal, salt, black pepper, and whatever other seasonings you desire)
3) Vegetable or peanut oil
Roll strips in dry coating and deep-fry until golden brown. Serve while still steaming hot. To minimize problems with the bones, eat in the following manner: break the strip in two pieces, a bit off-center. The bones will now protrude from the break. Usually all of the bones will remain in the longer piece. Pull the bones out and place them on a plate or napkin reserved for that purpose, and eat the fish – which is now boneless. Easier, by far, than eating chicken wings!
Flying Carp Wings
Prepare and eat as above, except instead of a seasoned cornmeal mix, use unadulterated corn starch, and fry until cornstarch coating is crispy. After frying, while the fish are still hot, shake strips in your favorite hot-wing sauce. Messy, but it will knock your socks off! Not for dieters!
From the Kitchen of Duane Chapman, USGS Fish Biologist
Recipes for Deboned Asian Carp
1) 2 pounds deboned Asian carp meat pieces (see Carp Lemonade for instructions on deboning)
2) ½ bottle liquid fajita marinade (dry mixes can also be used)
3) 10 soft tortillas, fajita size
4) Fajita toppings as desired, such as salsa, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, etc.
Marinade deboned carp pieces in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Grill over a hot fire. Use of a fish basket, or a piece of expanded aluminum mesh will help keep the fish pieces from breaking up and falling through the grill (however, if you are careful, this is not entirely necessary because the carp meat is quite firm). Place in a covered dish when removing from the grill, to keep the fish hot until delivered to the table. Diners can construct their own tortillas with their desired toppings.
Asian Carp Curry, Indian Style
2 pounds boneless Asian carp filets, in bite size pieces
½ t turmeric
3 T cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 t garlic powder
1½ t salt
2 t ginger powder
½ t cayenne pepper
2 t curry powder
2 cups water
1 small can tomato sauce (tomato paste works too)
juice of lemon
Mix 1 t salt with half of turmeric and half garlic powder and rub on fish pieces. Sprinkle with lemon juice, and set aside to marinate while sauce is being made.
In large, deep frying pan or wok, saute onion in oil until golden brown. Add rest of spices and stir for a few seconds, then stir in tomato sauce. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add water and rest of salt. Bring to a boil and add fish pieces. Cover and simmer on low heat, without stirring, until fish flakes. This will not take more than a few minutes, depending on size and density of fish pieces. Do not overcook fish. Then spoon onto a bed of cooked white rice and garnish with something green, preferably fresh broccoli.
1. Add some vegetables (broccoli florets, yellow squash slices) into the sauce when cooking fish.
2. Add a carton of plain yogurt. This sounds strange but it is very traditional in Indian curries, and is delicious. The yogurt must be stirred in while broth is hot, just before adding fish.
3. The sauce (not with yogurt) may be made up in large batches and stored refrigerated or frozen. This makes a very quick meal if you have some fish thawed when you come home from work. Or take a frozen container of sauce with you when you go camping, and cook your fresh-caught fish in it. This is especially good when it is cold out!
From the Kitchen of Duane Chapman, USGS Fish Biologist
Recipes for Bone-In Asian Carp Filets
One option for dealing with Asian carp bones is simply to take the filets (an upper and a lower filet half from each side of the fish, with red meat removed but intramuscular bones still in), season appropriately, and grill, broil, steam, or smoke the fish. Then the bones can be quickly removed by simply breaking the filet lengthwise and picking out the bones. This can be done at the table or by the chef. The following recipe is just one of many ways to cook the filets. Make sure you make extra, because the leftovers are fantastic. Take the leftover fish, remove any bones, flake the meat, mix in mayonnaise, a bit more of the pepper mix, and some of the fruit salsa and make incredible fish salad sandwiches.
Jamaican Jerk Carp
1) 4 pounds of white meat filets from silver, bighead, or grass carp. Filets should be cut lengthwise down the center line, and skin and red meat removed.
2) Juice of two limes (or substitute apple cider vinegar)
3) Spice mix (1T paprika, 2t salt, 1t fresh ground black pepper, 1t white pepper, 1t cayenne, 1t garlic powder, 1t onion powder, ½t oregano, ½t thyme)
Rub filets generously with spice mix, and put the filets in a plastic bag. Add juice or vinegar, and shake the bag to mix well. Marinade for 20 minutes to an hour. (DO NOT EXCEED one-hour marinade time, or the acid will begin to “cook” the fish, causing it to fall apart on the grill.) Grill over a hot fire. Serve with Jamaican-style red beans and rice (called “Peas and Rice” in Jamaica) and/or a fruit salsa (see recipes which follow).
Jamaican “Peas” and Rice
1 ½ cups dried red kidney beans*
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 cups water
salt, to taste
2 cups canned coconut milk
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced (optional)
1 scallion, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 fresh hot pepper
2 cups uncooked rice
Combine the kidney beans, garlic, water and salt to taste in a saucepan. Cook covered over medium heat until tender, about 2 hours. Add the coconut milk, pepper to taste, scallion, onion, thyme and whole fresh pepper. Bring to a boil, remove the hot pepper. Then add the rice and stir. Return to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the liquids have been absorbed. Serve hot.
*Can substitute 16-oz. can of cooked beans instead. Drain and combine with water and other ingredients except rice. Boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add rice, boil, reduce heat and cook about 20 minutes or until liquids are absorbed.
2 T chopped red onion
1 T minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups of chopped, mixed tropical fruit using at least two of orange, mango, and pineapple. Orange and mango should be fresh, pineapple may be canned. (If desired, may also include some firm tomatoes)
Mix all and let sit for an hour in the refrigerator. Serve cold.
Bones of Contention / BY P.J. Perea
Commercial anglers are having a tough time marketing this abundant nuisance species which ranks better than tuna in taste tests.
“The biggest problem right now with bighead and silver carp are the bones,” said Rob Maher, head of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources commercial fishing program. “The commercial anglers don’t have any machinery that can handle the larger-sized fish and the numerous bones that are interlaced throughout their meat.” The bighead and silver carp are filter feeders, and the bones are part of a fine sensory network that allows the fish to detect minute food particles in the water column. With the help of Mike Hooe of the Division of Fisheries, Maher spent a morning collecting fish for recipe testing. It did not take long to find a school of bigheads, as several breached around the wake of their boat. “After a five-minute net set, we had more than 150 pounds of bighead and silver carp in the net,” Maher said. “There are literally tons of these fish out there.”
A recent marketing test performed at the University of Arkansas on canned bighead carp revealed that taste testers preferred the flavor of canned bighead carp to that of canned tuna. The flesh of a fresh bighead and silver carp is firm, clean and slightly translucent with a metallic sheen. There is an oily feel to the firm meat, much like that of a whitefish or a freshwater trout. The meat is very mild when cooked and will readily absorb spices and marinades. Every fish used in the recipe testing was very healthy and had a sizeable fat layer on the belly and inside its back. The fat is slightly bitter and should be removed prior to cooking.
Here are three recipes that allow cooks to deal with the bones, whether from a smaller fish of 1 to 5 pounds or from a larger 5- to 30-pound fish.
Fried Asian Carp
2 pounds of scored fillets
Fresh ground pepper
Deep fryer with oil heated to 375° F to 400° F
Commercial frying coating (dry)
Smaller 1- to 5-pound fish have fine bones that readily dissolve when exposed to hot oil. Do not use large fish as they have much thicker bones that do not break down as easily. Most fish markets will sell the fish prescored for your convenience. Use light coatings, and avoid heavy batters that smother the scoring and which may leave the bones intact.
Salt and pepper the fillets, and let them rest in the refrigerator for an hour. Dredge the fillets in the commercial frying coating, and place in hot oil. Remove when golden brown, and serve with lemon wedges as a finger food or as a fish sandwich.
Smoked Asian Carp (Savory)
5 pounds bighead or silver carp steaks or fillets (skin on)
1cup coarse kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. fresh ground pepper
1 bunch fresh baby dill
Smoked Asian Carp (Sweet)
5 pounds bighead or silver carp steaks or fillets (skin on)
1cup coarse kosher salt 1 tbsp. fresh ground pepper
1 cup brown sugar
4 cups apple juice
2 sticks cinnamon
Smoker: charcoal and smoking chips (hickory, cherry or apple wood chips)
Smoking is a good way to prepare larger 5- to 30-pound fish. The light, oily texture of the meat readily absorbs the smoke flavor. The smoking process also loosens the bones and allows for easy extraction after cooking. Taste testers found both versions of the carp to be comparable to smoked whitefish or salmon.
Savory: Line up fillets/steaks on non-reactive pan or tray. Coat both sides with salt, pepper and dill. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Sweet: Place fillets/steaks in non-reactive bowl. Add remaining ingredients: salt, pepper, brown sugar, apple juice and cinnamon. Mix lightly until sugar and salt dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Soak wood chips in water one hour before smoking. Fire up charcoal until covered with a light ash. Fill water pan to create steam in smoker and keep fish from drying out.
Remove fish from marinade. Place on wire racks in the refrigerator for one hour. Be sure to put a pan under the rack to catch drippings. The fish will develop a slight glaze. Lightly oil grill and position marinated fish on the rack. Add a handful of smoking chips to charcoal and close cooker. Replenish chips every 20-30 minutes. Most fish will be cooked in two to four hours, but this will vary with weather conditions and desired depth of smokiness. Finished fillets will have golden honey to mahogany color, depending on preference and type of wood chips used. Cooked fish will flake easily and will become opaque.
Allow fish to cool, and serve “as is” or use in recipes that traditionally call for smoked salmon.
Poached Silver Salad Sandwich
2 pounds bighead or silver carp fillets (skin off)
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh baby dill
Fresh ground pepper
Red and yellow pepper slices
Cheese slices (optional)
Fresh bagel or favorite sandwich bread
Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon on the fillets. Salt and pepper fillets to taste. Coarsely chop a small bunch of dill, and sprinkle it on the fillets. Steam in an open foil packet until fillets become opaque and flake easily with a fork. Allow fish to cool and remove meat with a fork, separating from the bones.
Mix flaked fish with mayonnaise, ground pepper, celery and red and yellow pepper slices to taste. Chill salad in refrigerator. Serve salad on bread with side ingredients: cucumber slices, lettuce, tomato, pickle and cheese.