The day that Great Lakes lovers have been fearing for more than a decade has arrived: A breeding population of Asian carp has been found in the Great Lakes basin. As a result, I’ve adjusted the time on my Asian Carp Doomsday Clock to midnight — the witching hour.
Scientists on Monday reported finding a breeding population of Asian grass carp in Ohio’s Sandusky River, which flows into Lake Erie. The discovery is significant, according to experts, because grass carp have the same spawning needs as their more destructive cousins: The Asian bighead carp, which grows to 100 pounds; and Asian silver carp, which rocket out of the water when disturbed by the sound of boat motors.
Duane Chapman, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist and the pre-eminent expert on Asian carp, said the discovery of grass carp in the Sandusky River means it will be difficult to control Asian carp if they become established in the Great Lakes proper.
This sounds to me like splitting hairs. The Sandusky River — like all tributaries that flow into lakes Erie, Ontario, Huron, Michigan and Superior — is an integral part of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
There is nothing to prevent Asian carp in the Sandusky River from spreading into Lake Erie and, from there, who knows how far. Bighead and silver carp consume huge quantities of plankton that other fish species need to survive and, as a result, would pose a major threat to the $7 billion Great Lakes fishery.
The discovery of a naturally reproducing population of Asian carp in the Great Lakes basin is a game changer. This is an historic and profoundly sad day for the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem.