Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Experts unclear about Asian carp's ability to survive in Great Lakes

We have been following the progress of invasive Asian carp up the Mississippi River toward the Great Lakes, but now some scientists question whether the fish could thrive in the lakes. "There is considerable debate in the scientific community about precisely where they are in the waterway system, what conditions are best for spawning, what triggered the fish's population explosion in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, and, most importantly, whether Asian carp have the capability to destroy commercial and recreational fishing on the Great Lakes," Joel Hood of The Chicago Tribune reports.

Testimony from noted fish biologists at a three-day hearing in a Chicago federal court last week "cast doubts on the Asian carp's ability to sustain a thriving population in the Great Lakes as so many have feared," Hood writes. U.S. Geological Survey biologist Duane Chapman, who has studied Asian carp in the U.S. and abroad for a decade, testified, "I do believe individual (fish) will survive, but a large population? It's hard to say. We don't know what will happen, but we can make some guesses."

Researchers at University of Illinois' Natural History Survey concluded in a recent study that scarce supplies of plankton in the Great Lakes would make it unlikely the carp would survive. Konrad Dabrowski, a professor of aquatic sciences at Ohio State University, maintains "water temperature, depth, the speed of currents and food shortages will be the Great Lakes' best defense against Asian carp" after 15 years of Asian carp research. "Even if we put unlimited numbers of Asian carp [in the Great Lakes] they may not survive," Chapman said in court. "We simply don't know." (Read more)

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