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The Threat of Asian Carp in the Mississippi

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U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Water and Power Subcommittee, today made the following opening statement convening her hearing to address the threat of Asian carp. The hearing examined the federal response following t he recent discovery of an Asian carp in Lake Calumet in Illinois, within 6 miles of Lake Michigan, as well as recent findings in the Wabash River, Indiana.


Senator Stabenow:


"I call this hearing to order before the Water and Power Subcommittee. It's my pleasure to welcome you all here today.


"In 2008, a 15-year-old boy named Seth Russell was out tubing on Lake Chicot in Arkansas. Like many folks in my state of Michigan, Seth was riding on an inner-tube being pulled along by a motor boat, when an Asian carp jumped out of the water and hit him directly in the face.


"The fish hit him so hard that it killed the fish. Seth was knocked unconscious – he was rushed to the hospital with a broken jaw and whiplash.


"This species of Asian carp, called the silver carp, can weigh up to 40 pounds. Getting hit in the face by one of these is like getting hit in the face with a bowling ball.


"As we established at our previous hearing in February, Asian carp were introduced to the United States in the 1970s when they were used to control algae growth in catfish ponds down south. Floods allowed them to escape from the ponds and reach the Mississippi River, where they have left a trail of destruction on their way north.


"As we know, Asian carp feed on plankton, the foundation of the food chain, and often eliminate the ability of native fish species to fine food. The 40-pound silver carp, which jumps out of the water at people, is the "small" variety of Asian carp – the larger bighead carp grows to be up to 110 pounds.


"If these fish establish populations in the Great Lakes, it would be devastating for our $7 billion fishing industry, our $16 billion recreational boating industry, and it would cause irreversible ecological harm.


"In February of this year, the Subcommittee received testimony related to the Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework. Since that hearing, both Federal and non-Federal efforts have continued to address this serious threat to the Great Lakes.


"Since then, Asian carp have been found in Lake Calumet, Illinois, and in the Wabash River in Indiana. The purpose of this hearing is to examine the Federal response to these discoveries, and to get an update about the ongoing activities of the federal government to address this urgent issue.


"The threat from the Wabash River is of particular concern. As we heard in the February hearing, the threat of the Asian carp’s entry into the Great Lakes is not limited to the Chicago Area Waterways. Asian Carp are also located in other stream systems and can migrate to the Great Lakes through those avenues.


"Normally, the Wabash and Maumee Rivers are not connected. But every so often – about once a year – flooding in the rivers creates a brief connection. In May, a spawning event of Asian carp was detected about 100 miles downstream from this connection – and if Asian carp are able to cross from the Wabash into the Maumee River, they would have a clear and uninhibited path to Lake Erie.

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