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Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi River system for years after escaping from fish farms and wastewater treatment ponds in the southern U.S.They’re knocking on the door of the Great Lakes, and a number of people are concerned about what could happen if carp become established in the region.In this five-part series, we’ll take a look at what officials are trying to do to keep the fish out, what might happen if carp get in, and why some people want to turn carp into a business opportunity.

Asian carp could find a good home in Lake Erie

Rebecca Williams
Michigan Radio

Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers toward the Great Lakes for decades. Bighead and silver carp are the species people are the most concerned about.

There’s been a lot of focus on keeping carp out of Lake Michigan.

But a new study finds carp might do well in Lake Erie and some of the rivers that feed the lake.

Patrick Kocovsky is a research fishery biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He says it’s believed Asian carp need specific conditions to make babies.

“What’s currently believed is Asian carp require some kind of flood event in a tributary.”

He says the carp need just the right temperature... a river that’s flowing fast enough and a stretch of river long enough to reproduce.

Kocovsky and his team studied the major tributaries of Lake Erie. They found that the Maumee River is highly suitable for Asian carp to lay eggs.

The researchers found the Sandusky and Grand Rivers to be moderately suitable for carp.

Patrick Kocovsky says if carp can get into Lake Erie, the western side of the lake is likely to be the most hospitable.

Bighead and silver carp eat plankton. Kocovsky says this could be bad news for other fish that eat plankton.

“The primary concern is if Asian carp become established in Lake Erie, they will exert pressure on the plankton food source and possibly have detrimental effects on other planktivores and that might cascade through the entire food web.”

And that could end up hurting the popular sportfish in Lake Erie – walleye and yellow perch.

There is some debate among scientists over how big of an impact Asian carp might have on the Great Lakes.

“I would agree there is still debate but more and more, I think people are coming to believe that Asian carp do pose a threat and that we should be concerned.”

But he says there’s not nearly as much attention on keeping carp out of Lake Erie as there is on keeping them out of Lake Michigan.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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