University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Good Science is Necessary, but not Sufficient, in Asian carp fight

In last Friday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, outdoors writer Dennis Anderson wrote about the deliberations of state granting agencies who are deciding the best way to attack the spread of Asian carp.  The story is interesting and deserves to be read in its entirety, but I want to focus just on one element here:  the money.  Somehow these days it’s always about the money.

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council is charged with making recommendations on how to allocate a percentage of a sales tax increase that Minnesotans imposed on themselves by constitutional amendment in 2008.  (For more detail, Google “Minnesota Legacy Amendment”).  The LSOHC is deciding whether to up its present investment of $3 million to $5 million, in a nutshell.

But Anderson argues that reallhy doing the right thing to stop invasives from destroying Minnesota’s sport fishery would take a lot more money–he mentions $30 million for the first year and $20 million annually after that for five years.  A big chunk of this funding might go to the University of Minnesota to create an invasive species research center, per an earlier story.

Let me be clear:  I think the idea of an invasive species research center at the University of Minnesota is a wonderful, highly appropriate plan.  The U is the state’s land-grant university and is charged with providing leadership to the citizens of the state in all kinds of ways.  We (remember, I work there too) have the brainpower and the background to press forward on the scientific issues of invasive species control and eradication.

But, it’s not just about science.  If, as many have suggested, locks on the Mississippi need to be closed as at least a stopgap measure to control the spread of carp, there are enormous, and widespread economic consequences that will follow such an action.  Already the National Park Service has proposed a voluntary “no locking” policy for its educational program boat tours; landscape architects and planners should be involved in deciding alternative best places to land boats and connect people to the water without going through locks to existing boat launches.  And what would the public think about the cost or potential inconvenience of changing the surface water regulations?  Does the Mississippi River even matter that much to the public in the Twin Cities?  We have a number of academic folks whose students would be able to help generate good insights on that question.

The point simply is this:  while a scientific program is a great start in considering what to do with the threat of invasive species, and is a highly appropriate way for the University to become involved, there are a lot of other ways University talent can be of assistance as well.

I welcome your thoughts, both on the issues posed by invasive species, and on strategies to address them and what role we at the University can play.  We’re a world class university on a world class river: we should be a robust source of solutions.

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  1. Jane KingstonFebruary 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Right on!

  2. Tom MatychFebruary 2, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Restoring native predators, to high levels, is our best defence/attack. Removing 100 pounds of Asian carp might be just 2 fish. Removing a 100 pounds of eggs, fry or juveniles removes millions of fish before they become a problem. One fish could spawn a couple million egss so number of fish removed versus number of pounds is more effective. High native predators makes a the entire waterbody a control, no matter how they get in.

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