Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Asian Carp Invading US Waters

Two species of Asian carp, the silver (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and bighead (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), were introduced to the Mississippi river in the 1970s in order to clean algae out of catfish ponds (Molnár, 2009; EPA, 2010). Due to large flooding in the 1990s, the carp moved into local waterways and have reached far up the Illinois river, threatening the waters of the Great Lakes (EPA, 2010).

This parasitic fish was introduced under the assumption that it would remain only in the habitat humans intended, however in this case nature has prevailed. Molnár explains that parasite have been historically useful in many ways, including selective tasks and for surveying the origin of fishes (Molnár, 2009). The silver and bighead carp, however, have not only broken free of their intended territory, but they are also dominating the food sources over the bigmouth buffalo Ictiobus cyprinellus and gizzard shad Dorosoma cepedianum species. Studies also suggest that the carp is influencing the food supply of other species as well, such as native planktivores and other fish species (Irons, Sass, McClelland, & Stafford, 2007). These species of fish, which weigh over an average of 100 pounds, reproduce rapidly and have a ravenous appetite, are causing lasting effects on the ecosystem (EPA, 2010).

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, the State of Illinois, the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working diligently to prevent the carp from reaching the Great Lakes and causing further ecological damage (EPA, 2010). If the carp invade the Great Lakes, they could threaten the $7 billion Great Lakes Fishery, as well as threaten a variety of fish and their subsequent food chain (Borrell, 2010; EPA, 2010).

Tactics to stop the spread of the carp includes electric barriers and poisoning. A poisonous toxin, which claims to only kill fish and freshwater snails, has been dumped as a means to construct electrical barriers. Two electric barriers in the Lake Michigan canal have already been erected, which began in 2002. These barriers shock any fish which attempt to pass. Unfortunately, these attempts may have come too late as scientists have already discovered the DNA of the carp on the shores of the Great Lakes (Stern, 2009).

Borrell, B. (2010, January 6). U.S. Supreme court to act on Asian carp invasion. Retrieved from http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2010/01/us_supreme_court_to_act_on_asi.html
EPA. (2010, March 24). Asian carp and the great lakes. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/invasive/asiancarp/
Irons, K. S., Sass, G. G., McClelland, M. A., & Stafford, J. D. (2007). Reduced condition factor of two native fish species coincident with invasion of non-native Asian carps in the Illinois River, U.S.A. Is this evidence for competition and reduced fitness?. Journal of Fish Biology, 71(D), 258-273. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2007.01670.x
Molnár, K. (2009). Data on the parasite fauna of the European common carp Cyprinus carpio carpio and Asian common carp Cyprinus carpio haematopterus support an Asian ancestry of the species. Aquaculture, Aquarium, Conservation & Legislation - International Journal of the Bioflux Society (AACL Bioflux), 2(4), 391-400. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Stern, A. (2009, December 4). Chicago river poisoned to block feared Asian carp. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/12/04/us-greatlakes-carp-idUSTRE5B25R220091204

Federal Involvement in Protecting Natural Resources

The involvement of the federal government is absolutely necessary for the protection of natural resources. For without laws and statutes designed to protect natural resources, the longevity of these resources would be in the hands of the few and greedy. Just as Hardin (2008) explains that cattle need an organized management system to ensure they do not over-graze the land, human beings need to be governed by a set of laws in order to maintain harmony and balance.
The United States (U.S.) government has established many laws and agencies to protect our country’s natural resources, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (EPA, 2011). The federal government has achieved a great deal in a short 40-50 years and “federal support for natural resources conservation programs, and investments in environmental protection and restoration projects, has been enormously important in helping protect and maintain the natural resource strength upon which the Nation depends” (Sampson, 1998, p.1). The federal government also provides assistance to the public, in the form of incentive programs, grants, and other assistance programs for private land owners.
Unfortunately, the NEPA “[does] little to provide explicit guidance on how public participation and collaborative processes are to be utilized” (Travis, 2009, p.1). Furthermore, excessive government involvement is also the cause of much political debate, as the federal budget continues to swell (Sampson, 1998).
Additionally, while the government may make attempts to enforce many laws regarding the protection of natural resources, the execution of these laws does not always have sustainability at the forefront. The federal government lends many tools to businesses and the public and does its best to enforce regulations; however they are not equipped, with enough finances or personnel, to ensure that all environmental issues are handled sustainably. In most cases, the U.S. government is still in a pattern of being heavily reactive, rather than being proactive in planning and regulations. Sampson states that more emphasis needs to be placed on
“re-investment in those natural areas that have been over-used or abused as well as continued research and monitoring to assure conditions are staying truly sustainable, and not just deteriorating at a rate too slow to be readily apparent…and provide adequate incentives so that pollution and resource waste do not rob the future of our children” (1998, p. 2).

EPA. (2011, March 2). Laws and executive orders. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/laws/
Hardin, G. (2008, February 18). Garrett Hardin interview on the Tragedy of the Commons and Resource. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8gAMFTAt2M&feature=player_embedded
Sampson, R. N. (1998). Federal investment in natural resources and the environment. Retrieved from http://www.sampsongroup.com/Papers/federal%20budget%20trends.pdf
Travis, M. C. (2009). Collaborative Processes under NEPA: Are We There Yet?. Natural Resources & Environment, 23(4), 36-59. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.