Reps. Kildee, Walberg, Kaptur, Joyce: We Must Protect the Great Lakes from Threat of Invasive Species like Asian Carp

WASHINGTON – Earlier today, Congressman Dan Kildee led a bipartisan letter, along with Representatives Tim Walberg, Marcy Kaptur and Dave Joyce, to both the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), asking them to detail efforts in both states to eliminate an invasive species, grass carp, from Lake Erie.

Grass carp is one of the four invasive species of Asian carp that pose a threat to the Great Lakes and coastal wetlands. Recently, the population of grass carp has increased in waters under the jurisdiction of both Michigan and Ohio.

Both MDNR and ODNR are conducting a study on the increase of grass carp, but more than two years after the study began, it has yet to be completed. The lawmakers believe that MDNR and ODNR need to address the situation with more urgency. Today’s letter asks what these departments are doing to immediately stop the spread of grass carp.

Since 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which is supported by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, has helped to restore the wetlands that grass carp are now consuming. With President Trump’s proposed budget eliminating the GLRI, there is an increased urgency in preserving the federal investment in wetland restoration and the local economy.

The full text of the letter:

Directors Creagh and Zehringer:

We write regarding the presence of reproducing grass carp in Lake Erie and its tributaries.

Grass carp are one of the four invasive species of Asian carp that pose a threat to the Great Lakes basin and its coastal wetlands. Coastal wetlands are essential to the Great Lakes ecosystems, serving as a crucial habitat for fish, waterfowl and other wildlife. Since the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) began in 2010, millions of dollars have been spent through local, state and federal governments and non-profits to restore these wetlands.

Grass carp are known to consume plants that make up these wetlands. The immediate threat of grass carp in Lake Erie jeopardizes the investment and goals of the GLRI. Billions of dollars of annual economic activity and hundreds of thousands of jobs are directly tied to the health of the Great Lakes and its wetlands. Thus, we must protect them from harm, especially from invasive species like Asian carp.

Grass carp have been reported to be spawning and living in waters under the jurisdiction of both the states of Michigan and Ohio. As such, we respectfully request further information on your understanding of this invasive species and seek clarity on what the Michigan and Ohio Departments of Natural Resources (MDNR and ODNR) are doing to eliminate grass carp from Lake Erie. Specifically:

• Sterile grass carp have been present in the Great Lakes for many years, but in recent years an increasing number of reproducing grass carp being found. What is the source of reproducing grass carp in the region?

• How large is the current population of reproducing grass carp in Lake Erie? Is there currently an established population in Lake Erie? In what Great Lakes watershed streams/rivers have grass carp been discovered?

• It is our understanding the MDNR and ODNR have partnered with other stakeholders to monitor the grass carp. What is the status of this study? When do you expect the study to be completed? Are there any preliminary results you can share with us?

• Is there currently a rapid response action plan for eliminating grass carp in Lake Erie? If not, when do you expect that action plan to be completed? Are there any other actions you have taken to manage or eliminate grass carp?

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter. We look forward to working with you on the shared goal of protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and to combat invasive species that threaten the Lakes.

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