U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, both D-Mich., announced today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will publish tomorrow a final rule in the Federal Register that prohibits the importation and transportation of bighead carp. The rule, placing the bighead carp on the federal list of injurious wildlife, implements the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act (S.1421), which Levin introduced, and Stabenow cosponsored, in 2009. Congress approved and the president signed the act in December 2010.
"This action is an important step in the effort to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes," Levin said. "These fish pose a real, clear and growing threat to the Great Lakes, and I will continue working to ensure tools like the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act and others will be available as we counter this threat. The devastating effects Asian carp could have on the Great Lakes are not fully known, and I want to make sure they are never realized."
"Asian carp poses a grave threat to our $7 billion fishing industry, $16 billion recreational boating industry and the entire Great Lakes ecosystem. We've got to fight the spread of these invasive species through every method at our disposal," said Stabenow. "Stopping the transport of all Asian carp across state lines is another good step toward protecting our Lakes. Now we need to keep fighting for permanent separation of the Chicago Waterway System from Lake Michigan so the Great Lakes are protected once and for all."
The rule implementing the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act lists the bighead carp as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act, which was originally passed by Congress in 1900 and amended in 1981. Listing the bighead species of Asian carp under the Lacey Act will help prevent the intentional introduction of the species by prohibiting the interstate transportation or importation of live Asian carp Asian carp without a state-issued permit certifying transport is for zoological, education, medical, or scientific purposes. This legislation will not interfere with existing state regulations of Asian carp, and it will allow states to issue permits to transport or purchase live Asian carp for scientific, medical or educational purposes. The Fish and Wildlife Service has already listed other species of Asian carp as injurious under the Lacey Act.
Originally introduced into the United States as a management tool for aquaculture farms and sewage treatment facilities, Asian carp are voracious eaters that can grow up to six feet and 110 pounds. These non-native species were first used in Louisiana catfish farms in the 1970s to control snails and vegetation. In the mid-1990s, flooding allowed the Asian carp to escape from fish farms. They have spread to most of the Mississippi River watershed and the Missouri River, devastating the food resources and habitats of native and sport fish populations. The bighead carp, along with the other species of Asian carp, now account for the majority of fish in the Missouri River.
Because the Mississippi River is connected to the Great Lakes through a man-made sanitary and ship canal, Asian carp are now close to entering and establishing themselves in the Great Lakes. They also threaten entry into the lakes via other pathways, including flood plains and intentional and accidental introductions.