The fact that this invasive species of fish would bring devastation to this Great Lake has been common knowledge for congressmen and workers in the fishing industry for years now. But now this concept has scientific backing as well because a study has shown that the Asian carp can severely impact Lake Erie’s ecosystem if introduced.
Lake Erie has an incredible variety of fish species within its waters, even greater than all the other four Great Lakes combined. According to a study conducted at the University of Michigan, if silver Asian carp or bighead Asian carp will eventually establish a foothold in the region, almost 33% of the entire fish population will become Asian carps.
If this event occurs, more than 8 Ohio counties that benefit from the lake’s plethora of fish by sport-fishing will lose tens of thousands of jobs. The lake-based tourism industry would suffer as well, a side of the market that brings in an average of $12 billion on an annual basis.
This study has shown that in the case of an Asian carp invasion, there is virtually no beneficial scenario present at all. The first species that will be severely impacted will be the rainbow trout and the yellow perch. Asian carp will effectively out-compete smaller fish in plankton consumption, leaving the latter to starve to death.
The only species that will actually survive this invasion or even somewhat increase in numbers would be predatory fish like the smallmouth bass. Although this will be the case, the cost-to-benefit ratio is deemed moot considering that all other fish would be extensively eradicated.
Even if the devastated species will be the emerald shiners and the gizzard shads, fish that are not part of the fishing industry, they should not be ignored what-so-ever. These two species are an extremely important part of the food cycle, providing an efficient source of food for predatory fish. In the case of major population decreases, although these numbers are somewhat quelled by Asian crap juveniles that can be considered effective prey, predatory fish numbers would crash as well.
This will eventually completely destroy the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Invasive species, ranging from fish to snails, have always had these adverse side effects when introduced in foreign territories. For instance, a species of Australian snail is looked out for in the US because if its numbers reach a certain limit, farms will be directly affected, as well as the indigenous species.
Even though this might seem completely grim, the authors of the study have stated that Asian carp will bring forth this devastation only if it will begin feeding on sportfish larva. Because this fish can completely subsist on plankton, only other similar fish that rely on this food source will be affected tremendously.
Bearing in mind the fact that the Asian carp can severely impact Lake Erie’s ecosystem, fisheries, as well as the general public that practices fishing, should exercise caution when fishing in the lake. If an increased population of Asian carp is present, athorities must be immediately signaled so that they are extensively removed in order to circumvent their impact on the indigenous fish species.