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Public Statements

Asian Carp Found In Lake Calumet

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise today with a very urgent and critical situation from my home State and the home State of the Presiding Officer and for our Great Lakes in general.

We are just finding out today that a commercial fisherman, contracted by the government to do routine sampling of areas leading into the Great Lakes and Lake Michigan, caught a 34-inch, 20-pound Asian carp in Lake Calumet, approximately 6 miles downstream from Lake Michigan, past the barriers, and on its way to Lake Michigan. This is the first Asian carp found past the electric barriers. It represents a very serious risk to the Great Lakes' ecosystem and, frankly, to our way of life in the Great Lakes region. These fish are huge, and they are able to invade the Great Lakes. They could easily destroy our $7 billion fishing industry and our $16 billion recreational boating industry. Invasive species in the Great Lakes have already contributed to significant declines in fish populations. The Asian carp could completely unwind the food chain, with devastating effects for our existing fish populations. We heard in testimony before my Subcommittee on Water and Power that these fish, which can get up to 90 or 100 pounds, effectively have no stomach. They eat all the time. They eat up everything in the food chain, leaving other fish to die throughout the Great Lakes. It is extremely serious.

We have been working on this issue for a number of years with electric fencing and most recently poisoning a part of the waters in the Chicago channels to determine whether there are any of these Asian carp that have come up the Mississippi River and into the Illinois River. At the time, they didn't find anything. Unfortunately, today they did, and it was well past the electric barriers and fences for the first time.

Let me share with you one story from a few years ago that reflects what
happens if these huge fish get into our precious Great Lakes. In 2003, a woman named Mary Poplett, from Peoria, IL, decided to enjoy some warm October weather with a little jet skiing on the Illinois River. As she cruised the waves, the sound of her ski's motor excited a 30-pound Asian carp swimming under the water, which then leapt up and crashed into her. Imagine being hit in the face by a bowling ball. That is how she referred to it. She was knocked unconscious. She broke her nose, fractured a vertebrae, and she would have drowned if other boaters in the area had not gotten to her in time. Imagine that. Imagine that happening over and over again in Lake Michigan, in Lake Superior, and around our Great Lakes. I can't imagine it. I don't want to imagine it.

Mary is not alone. Since Asian carp were introduced to control algae in catfish ponds down South in the 1970s, the carp have spread at a very rapid pace, causing injuries, destroying ecosystems, and threatening entire industries. Now that an Asian carp has been found so close to Lake Michigan, it better be a huge wake-up call that we have to act swiftly to contain this threat.

Despite everyone's best efforts, this situation we find ourselves in is calling for very decisive action. I have introduced legislation to close the locks until we have a permanent solution. This has also been introduced in the House by my colleague, Congressman Camp, and others, and I today urge in the strongest possible terms that the Army Corps close the locks between the rivers and Lake Michigan now--now, today--while they continue to determine the best way to permanently separate the Chicago area waterway system from the Great Lakes.

We know we need additional monitoring and sampling of resources applied to the area. I appreciate that last December, when there was fish DNA found above the locks, the administration worked with us very quickly to redirect resources to the Army Corps to take some immediate actions at that time. But now it is not just DNA from a dead fish. Now it is a live fish, and it is beyond the electric barrier. It is on its way in open waters into our Great Lakes, and we have to act decisively and immediately to protect our waters while a long-term solution is found.

Again, I urge the Army Corps of Engineers and the other agencies involved to take this finding very seriously and to act with the same tremendous urgency that all of us who represent Great Lakes States feel to prevent further encroachment by these Asian carp into our Great Lakes. This isn't just the economy, it is not just boating, and it is not just fishing; it really is our way of life in the Great Lakes. Despite efforts that have gone on for years to stop the fish, that hasn't happened, and now we have to take very decisive action to close the locks immediately so we can determine how best, in the long term, to solve this problem.

Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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