Alliance for the Great Lakes - Freshwater Future - Great Lakes United - Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition - National Wildlife Federation - Natural Resources Defense Council - Prairie Rivers Network - Sierra Club
Friday, July 1, 2011 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U.S. and Canadian Scientists Warn Great Lakes Asian Carp Threat is Real; Urge Separating Great Lakes, Mississippi River
Despite spurious claims to the contrary, strong evidence exists that the threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes is imminent and their potential to cause harm is real, a group of Great Lakes and Mississippi River scientists say in a newly published consensus paper released Thursday.
The scientists take aim at what they characterize as a systematic campaign by special interests to quote experts out of context, misrepresent scientific results in the press, and fail to correct critical deficiencies in methods used to monitor the Asian carp invasion.
Behind this campaign, they say, are those who oppose serious consideration of proposals to permanently and physically separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River -- what scientists and many others agree is the only permanent way to stop the movement of Asian carp and other invasives between the two watersheds.
“The effect has been to paralyze the public agencies responsible (such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) from even evaluating permanent separation,” while the vast majority of available resources are used to pursue less reliable alternatives, according to the authors of the independent study.
The peer-reviewed, heavily footnoted paper, “Aquatic Invasive Species Risks to the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins,” is authored by Jerry Rasmussen, Henry Regier, Richard Sparks and William Taylor -- all distinguished U.S. and Canadian researchers from the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins. The Journal of Great Lakes Research posted a link to the paper on its website Thursday in advance of publishing it in its upcoming issue. The paper is also posted on Michigan State University’s website and is slated to be a chapter in a forthcoming book published by the university.
The researchers affirm what the environmental community has been urging even before the first November 2009 Asian carp DNA find inside an electric barrier that serves as the last line of defense between the Great Lakes and carp-riddled Mississippi River Basin. As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stalls on congressionally ordered studies to find a permanent solution -- resorting to fish kills and other short-term tactics to stop the carp’s lakeward migration -- environmentalists and a growing chorus of lawmakers continue to push for physically separating the two basins.
"Extraordinary evidence demands extraordinary solutions, and the evidence is piling up in favor of separation," says Joel Brammeier, President and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "Declaring independence between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River is the only option."
Robert Hirschfeld of Prairie Rivers Network concurs. “The artificial connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River is a revolving door for wave after wave of invasive species to infest the 30 states of the Mississippi River Basin and do untold ecological and economic damage,” he says.
“The science is in,” agrees Marc Smith, Senior Policy Manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. “The time for talk is over. It’s time to act on what the scientists are telling us and get to work protecting the Great Lakes and Mississippi River from harmful invasive species and the environmental and economic harm they bring.”
The scientists say the potential victims of the current campaign to discredit proposals to separate the basins are the 40 million in the region who look to the Great Lakes for everything from drinking water to recreation to economic stability, as well as those living throughout the Mississippi River Basin already damaged by the zebra mussel and other southbound invaders from the Great Lakes.
“Asian carp will fundamentally damage an international treasure and resource,” says Jennifer Nalbone, Director of Navigation and Invasive Species for Great Lakes United. “The Chicago Area Water System’s identity is in the midst of transformation. It is our responsibility to build off the changes already underway and stop the invasion.”
Cheryl Mendoza, Associate Director with Freshwater Future, notes that many in the region already support separating the two watersheds. "Thousands of citizens around the Great Lakes region have been calling for a permanent solution to protect the lakes from Asian carp, and now the science is in backing up how imperative such a solution is," she says. "Armed with this science, we now need to increase pressure on decision makers to separate the lakes from the Mississippi River basin as swiftly as possible."
In their paper, the scientists refute four main misconceptions opponents have thrown up as smokescreens to derail progress on halting the Asian carp’s migration from the Mississippi to Lake Michigan – for now the most likely point of entry into the five Great Lakes:
- An electric barrier operating in Chicago waterways is effective in blocking Asian carp; the Asian carp captured above the barrier arrived by other means.
- Even if they do find their way to the Great Lakes, Asian carp won’t thrive there because the lakes lack adequate food and spawning habitat.
- It’s too late to prevent an introduction. Asian carp have already found their way into the Great Lakes, or soon will, through anglers dumping their bait buckets, malicious transfers, or cultural practices.
- Asian carp, if they become established, are unlikely to cause serious damage to the Great Lakes ecosystem.
“This paper, along with an excellent one published by the University of Notre Dame earlier this year, shows that the science is clear: We need to take more aggressive action to stop the advance of Asian carp and other invasive species into the Great Lakes,” says Thom Cmar, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Now we need to match our policy to the science. I hope this paper will spur action to develop real solutions that will prevent further spread of invasive species through the Chicago Waterway System.”
“As this new paper makes clear, the nation cannot afford not to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of the Asian carp,” says Jeff Skelding, Campaign Director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Public officials need to move aggressively to prevent the spread of invasive species like the Asian carp, while also funding restoration activities. Otherwise, the health of the lakes will worsen and cost more to restore.”
Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter, says the study is a “wakeup call that underscores the urgency of closing the artificial connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River that allows alien invaders to move between these two great ecosystems.”
"These scientists are telling us we don't have much time to act to keep Asian carp out of our precious Great Lakes," he says of the study’s authors, who received no funding for their work.
Alliance for the Great Lakes, Joel Brammeier: 773-590-6494
Freshwater Future, Cheryl Mendoza: 231-571-5001
Great Lakes United, Jennifer Nalbone: 716-213-0408
Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition: Jordan Lubetkin: 734-887-7109
National Wildlife Federation, Marc Smith: 734-887-7116
Natural Resources Defense Council, Josh Mogerman: 312-651-7909
Prairie Rivers Network, Clark Bullard: 217-898-4112
Sierra Club, Jack Darin:312-251-1680