Asian carp: battle or bait?
News of the impending Asian Carp invasion of the Great Lakes is sobering. But I have a solution. Are you listening, Maine Lobsterman’s Association?
These fish have been clogging waterways and outcompeting native fish up and down the Mississippi River system ever since they escaped the fish farms where they were used to clean tanks of unwanted algae. This according to a story in the Guardian which also says that 9 of every 10 fish in some stretches of the river are now carp, which “eat up to 40 percent of their body weight in a single day. By sucking up so much goodness from the water they deprive the juveniles of native species of their primary source of food, leading to their decline.”
While not every kind of invasive species poses a problem, and I don’t buy the hysteria surrounding the invasive species debate, I think this problem warrants concern and action, and not just among those who make their living as fishing boat captains on the Great Lakes.
Rather than poisoning long stretches of the river to kill the unwanted as well as wanted fish (as has been done, ineffectively), or erecting dodgy electric barriers in waterways that connect the rivers to the lakes, how about we use them for bait?
Yes, bait, which is at a premium in some places. Take the Atlantic East Coast, where the marine food chain is impoverished. From whales to seals, striped bass to tuna and seabirds, everybody loves Atlantic herring. Even lobsters.
So the fact that this crucial food chain link is the number one bait used in lobster traps, at a time when canneries are closing due to quota restrictions on herring (and the amount of herring that Maine lobstermen typically use for bait each year exceeds the new quota), why not introduce the profit motive on the Mississippi?
A small fleet of boats equipped with nets could dredge up tons and tons of unwanted fish every day. Ask anyone like me who grew up on the coast with a fishing rod in his hand: these boats put the hurt on fish stocks so fast it’s not even funny. And the nets would undoubtedly snag lots of other ‘trash’ such as toasters, radiators, tires, and all the other stuff that intrepid grassroots groups like Living Lands and Waters work to fish out of Midwest rivers by hand, daily.
So pay the carp catchin’ folks by the pound, ship the fish in rail cars to Portland, and snap them into lobster traps. For free, maybe. Heck, the Obamans pledged $78.5 million to block the noxious carp from the Lakes. Let guvvy subsidize it!
And keep those herring swimming out where they can do what they do best: thinking herring thoughts, cleaning the ocean of algae, and fattening marine megafauna.