U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior urging the agency to quicken and strengthen its efforts to prevent Asian carp from wreaking havoc on the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and the jobs and economic footprint Lake Erie has on Northwest Pennsylvania.
Senator Casey's letter comes after the announcement that Asian carp DNA was recently discovered in samples taken from Lake Erie last year.
"The discovery of Asian carp DNA in Lake Erie is a worrisome development and a strong call for action," said Senator Casey. "To protect jobs and the economy of Northwest Pennsylvania, the Department of the Interior must step up its efforts to prevent a disastrous infestation of this invasive fish."
The coastal region of Lake Erie supports 1.2 million Pennsylvania jobs, Senator Casey wrote in his letter to Secretary Ken Salazar, and Pennsylvania's fishing industry contributes $1.6 billion to the state's economy annually.
Senator Casey has been a leader in the effort to prevent Asian carp from reaching Lake Erie, recently pushing for a law to require the speedy creation of an action plan to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through a number of rivers and tributaries.
Senator Casey has also pushed the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to crack down on the smuggling of live Asian carp into Canada from the United States, a practice that could put the ecosystem of Lake Erie and the jobs and economic activity that depend on a healthy lake at risk.
Senator Casey's letter to Secretary Salazar is below:
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
Dear Secretary Salazar:
I am writing in regard to the alarming discovery of Asian carp genetic material in Lake Erie. Researchers studying samples taken from Lake Erie last summer recently found the presence of environmental DNA of two species of Asian carp. I urge the Department to respond swiftly and effectively to the threat that Asian carp poses to Lake Erie and the Great Lakes.
Lake Erie, an invaluable natural resource, supports local businesses and industries in Pennsylvania. In fact, Lake Erie's coastal region supports 1.2 million Pennsylvanian jobs and is an integral part of Pennsylvania's economy. We must address the threat posed by Asian carp in order to ensure that Pennsylvania's economy remains strong and jobs are protected. An estimated 1.5 million fish are caught each year in Lake Erie, its bays and tributaries. Pennsylvania's fishing industry contributes $1.6 billion to the state's economy annually.
The invasive Asian carp has the potential to push out native species and cause a decrease in the indigenous population. A decreased fish population would not only adversely affect fishermen, but also local businesses that sell and serve the fish. Perch, for example, is a mainstay on local restaurant menus. Further, the presence of Asian carp in Lake Erie would discourage tourism, a vital component of the local economy. Four million people vacation at Presque Isle State Park each year, contributing over $67 million into the economy. Activities, including walleye sport-fishing, generate big dollars. The fishing and tourism industries are major employers that rely on Lake Erie.
While the government has taken action to help stop the movement of Asian carp into the Great Lakes, a stronger effort must be made to stop the adverse effects of Asian carp that may already be present in the Great Lakes. Lake Erie is a vital asset for Pennsylvania, supporting both the economy and culture of Northwestern Pennsylvania. We must work as hard as possible to prevent the Asian carp from causing irreparable damage to the region.
The Department of the Interior must strengthen its efforts to address the significant threat of the Asian carp. I am committed to protecting Lake Erie and ensuring it remains a valuable resource for future generations. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to continue working with you.
Robert P. Casey Jr.
United States Senator