Asian carp are voracious eaters that can wipe out native fish, and experts say if the carp make their way into Lake Erie it would wreak havoc on the ecosystem and economy. For years, conservationists and national leaders have examined ways to stop the spread of the invasive species, which has established itself in the Mississippi River.
A study released last week from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outlines eight possible approaches, including a physical barrier. Kristy Meyer, managing director of agricultural health and clean water programs with the Ohio Environmental Council, says a barrier is the most effective method. “Anything less than permanent separation is really a distraction,” she stresses. “Any steps and actions that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers takes needs to be leading to permanent separation.”
Other options include a series of electrical barriers, but Meyers says they can be easily breached, making the Great Lakes vulnerable to the destructive non-native fish. She says the study from the Corps of Engineers shows the need for national leaders to take prompt action on a permanent solution that will protect the environment and the way of life for millions of people.
Meyers adds there’s a lot at stake if Asian carp make their way into the Great Lakes. She points out Lake Erie alone generates $11 billion in tourism and travel revenue for the state of Ohio. “The Maumee River is the walleye capital of the world, basically,” she says. “And Lake Erie produces more fish for human consumption than all of the other four lakes combined, so it really would have a big impact on the native fisheries that we have in Lake Erie.” The Army Corps’ study shows a physical barrier could take 25 years to complete at a price tag of more than $18 billion.