Over the past century, both the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins have been economically and ecologically devastated by the establishment of self-sustaining populations of aquatic invasive species. In the Mississippi River basin, some of the most significant damage has been attributed to the presence of reproducing populations of Asian carp in the main waterway and its tributaries. The ability of this nonindigenous invasive fish to outcompete native fish for food and habitat has led to the widespread establishment of Asian carp in the Mississippi River, impacting the natural balance of the aquatic ecosystem. Stakeholders in the Great Lakes region are acutely aware of the destructive impacts that could result if Asian carp become established as self-sustaining populations in the Great Lakes ecosystem, and are particularly concerned with the risk of a potential interbasin exchange of Asian carp through the canals and waterways that connect the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. A regional consensus has been emerging that ecological separation is the primary long-term solution needed to minimize the potential of a future invasion. However, underlying economic, environmental, social, and political realities raise a complex set of issues that must be addressed in the course of enacting this solution. Through an examination of Asian carp life cycle and behavior, current Asian carp management and prevention efforts, and the implications surrounding the potential invasion of Asian carp, this report explores the multifaceted problems posed by this highly aggressive nonindigenous invader. It also discusses the fundamental reasons why permanent and equitable measures are needed to minimize the potential for an interbasin transfer of all aquatic invasive species for every life stage between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.
Environmental Practice 12:342–356 (2010)