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Carp response grows, becomes more varied

April 3, 2012Patrick NunnallyUncategorizedComments Off on Carp response grows, becomes more varied

Last month’s announcement that invasive Asian carp, including a specimen of the jumping silver carp, had been netted in the Mississippi River near Winona, MN, has generated a flurry of response.  This post outlines a few of the threads that are now emerging, and invites responses on what is likely to be a long and complex issue.

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) held a carp forum on the evening of March 19, at which several dozen people from the navigation industry, recreational boaters, state and federal agencies, and interested citizens spoke about their concerns relative to carp.  No one thought the carp did not pose a menace, and there was wide agreement that something should be done.  But what?  MNRRA staff announced a policy of voluntarily minimizing lock use for Park programs and Park-sponsored activities.  The Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure, which takes around 10,000 school children in voyageur canoes over the course of the summer, is reorganizing its logistics and lesson planning so that the locks between, say, St. Anthony Falls and the Mississippi River Gorge will not be used during their trips.   John Anfinson’s presentation, Minimizing Lock Use and Asian Carp Expansion, makes clear how many times the locks in the Twin Cities are opened, and to serve what kinds of vessels.  Current federal law requires the Army Corps of Engineers to open the locks for any vessel requesting passage; it is felt that a large number of openings and closings will facilitate the rapid migration of carp..

Anfinson, Chief of Resource Management for MNRRA, stated the issue succinctly when he said, “If anything is going to be done soon, it will be done by us.”   His emphasis was on “soon,” since the navigation season on the Upper Mississippi has now opened, and the locks are getting regular use.  While there is widespread agreement that scientific solutions to the spread of carp are important, it is also generally conceded that scientists are years away from a solution.

The question of how urgent the carp problem is, and what role science has in its solution, was one of the threads in a Commentary piece published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Sunday April 1.  Author Greg Breining asks “So what if we lose” the “war” on Asian carp.  Breining has a couple of good points.  It’s always worrisome when the “war on…” language gets brought into play on policy issues that are not, actually, wars.  It is likewise the case that often advocacy against invasive species makes a too-simple supposition that our ecosystems were stable and “just fine” until “they” (whatever invasive is in question) came along.  As an aside, I work with indigenous people who find the whole concern about invasive species voiced by (usually white) professionals to be more than a little bitterly ironic.  But Breining’s main point seems to be contestable at the very least:  He quotes a biologist from Macalester College that people and agencies have made a lot of money mobilizing against invasive species.  Now that’s just cynical.  Sure, bureaucracies have a tendency to perpetuate themselves, but that is certainly not the main point in the mobilization against this threat to Minnesota’s fisheries and water-based recreation.

A more typical response to the carp threat was published Monday by the Mankato Free Press.  Calling for definitive action against the invasive fish, the editorial declared that “It’s time to draw the line on Asian carp.”  Where that line is, and what it takes to “draw” the line” are the subjects of important scientific research, policy debate, and community and public engagement activities.

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