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Hearing Of The Senate Water and Power Subcommittee - Federal Framework and non-Federal Efforts to Prevent Introduction of the Aquatic Invasive Asian Carp Into the Great Lakes


Location: Washington, DC

Stabenow Opening Statement on Asian Carp Subcommittee Hearing

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Water and Power Subcommittee, today made the following opening statement convening her hearing to examine the science and policy behind the Federal framework and non-Federal efforts to prevent introduction of the aquatic invasive Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

Senator Stabenow:

" I call this hearing to order before the Water and Power Subcommittee. It's my pleasure to welcome you all here this morning. The purpose of this hearing is to examine the science and policy behind the Federal framework and non-Federal efforts to prevent introduction of the aquatic invasive Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

"Senator Brownback is here as our ranking member.

"In 2003, a woman named Mary Poplett, from Peoria, Illinois, decided to enjoy some unseasonably 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 out and crashed right into her.

"Imagine being hit in the face by a bowling ball.

"She broke her nose and fractured a vertebra, knocking her unconscious. She would have drowned if other boaters hadn't saved her in time.

"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 rapid pace, causing injuries, destroying ecosystems, and threatening entire industries.

"As you can see, these fish like to eat. This one is just a "baby" -- a bighead carp killed in Illinois in 2008 weighed in at 92 ½ pounds.

"Because Asian carp don't have a true stomach, they can't store food between meals, so they have to constantly be eating. Every day, they eat 40% of their body weight in plankton. Their incredible appetites mean that other fish are left to starve. You can see the affect on other fish species in areas where infestation is greatest: Asian carp now make up 90% of the fish in the water.

"Now, these fish are on the verge of invading the Great Lakes. If they do, 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. Asian carp could completely unwind the food web, with devastating effects for our existing fish populations.

"Today's hearing will explore solutions to this very serious threat. The Asian carp working group, made up of state and federal agencies, has developed a framework for Asian carp control, which will be the focus of our hearings today. That framework calls for short-and long-term actions to stop the spread of Asian carp and protect the Great Lakes.

"I have introduced S.2946, the CARP ACT (along with Senators Brown, Schumer, Gillibrand, Franken, and Feingold), that includes many of the same short-term actions included in the framework, with one notable exception: our bill calls for the immediate closure of the Chicago canal locks until a permanent strategy is developed.

"For thousands of years, the Great Lakes and Mississippi River ecosystems were separated, until the construction of artificial canals and locks connecting them. Continuing threats of invasive species, especially the Asian carp, make it clear that we need to return to a permanent separation of the two ecosystems. This strategy was endorsed Monday by the Great Lakes Commission, a group made up of the eight states and two Canadian provinces that border the Great Lakes.

"I look forward to hearing the testimony of our excellent panels of witnesses today."

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