WASHINGTON, D.C. — With Asian carp smuggling into Canada continuing unabated, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is urging U.S. Customs and Border Protection to step up its efforts to crack down on this illegal trafficking, which poses a major hazard to the health of Lake Erie and the multimillion dollar boating and fishing industries that rely on the Lake. The letter follows efforts last year from Brown to put an end to this practice, but as the Toledo Blade recently reported, Asian carp smuggling is continuing to threaten the lake’s ecosystem.
“For generations, Ohioans have spent their springs and summers enjoying Lake Erie’s abundant fish supply and placid waters for boating and recreation,” Brown said. “But if Asian Carp makes its way into Lake Erie and the rest of the Great Lakes, these pastimes—and the livelihood of thousands of anglers and boaters could be at risk.
“In addition to the threat posed by carp from the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers making their way past barriers into Lake Erie, smugglers are continuing to violate the law by bringing the fish from the southern United States into Canada,” Brown continued. “I’ve called on the Canadian Ambassador to do more to crack down on this highly dangerous practice in the past, but we must step up efforts on our side of the border as well.”
Asian carp is an invasive species that has the potential to seriously disrupt the ecosystem of Lake Erie. Researchers have found that in many sections of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, Asian Carp are the only species present. More than 185 species of fish, mussels, and plants from Asia and Eastern Europe are already in the Great Lakes system, choking out native species. Brown is a sponsor of the Stop Asian Carp Act, which would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to study the watersheds of the Illinois, Chicago, and Calumet rivers to determine the feasibility and best way to implement hydrologic separation of the rivers from the Great Lakes. The study would address flooding, wastewater, stormwater, and safety concerns. The study would also look at alternative pathways for barge and recreational boating traffic. The bill would also direct the USGS and the Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor and survey the waters of the Great Lakes basin to identify additional threats from Asian Carp, and to identify means of prevention.
In December 2010, the President signed the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act, which adds the bighead carp species of Asian carp to a list of injurious species that are prohibited from being imported or shipped in the United States under the Lacey Act.
In May 2010, Brown visited the University of Toledo's Lake Erie Center to discuss efforts to combat Asian carp, and in December 2009, Brown signed a letter urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address the spread of Asian Carp. He helped pass the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact, which establishes common stewardship goals for the Great Lakes and a common set of rules that will be followed by the eight Great Lakes states. He also fought to include more than $475 million in the Fiscal Year 2010 budget for Great Lakes cleanup, of which nearly $60 million has been devoted to initiatives aimed at preventing an influx of Asian carp.
The full text of the letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection can be found below.
David V. Aguilar
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20229
Dear Commissioner Aguilar:
I write to express my concern regarding recent reports of the smuggling of live Asian carp from the United States into Canada. While I appreciate the work of U.S. Customs agents and their Canadian counterparts who have stopped attempted smuggling efforts at the border, it is apparent that we must immediately increase efforts to end this problem that could irreversibly harm the Great Lakes.
Bighead and silver carp are listed as injurious species under the Lacey Act. This designation ensures that transport of these carp across state lines is illegal and carries a fine. Yet if reports in the Toledo Blade and Detroit News are any indication, there is little communication between different enforcement agencies about the illegal transport of Asian carp within the United States or across the Canadian Border. To that end, I have several questions on this critical matter:
1) What is the communications policy between U.S. Customs and Border Control and their Canadian counterparts when live Asian carp are discovered at international border crossings?
2) Upon discovery of live Asian carp, does U.S. Customs immediately contact the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to allow this agency to immediately investigate and fine the owners and transporters of the carp?
3) What strategy in place to ensure that live Asian carp do not make it past border agents?
4) How many acts of Asian carp smuggling have been discovered at any U.S.-Canadian border crossings within the past three years?
5) Does your Agency have any contact or role in the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee established by the White House Council on Environmental Quality? If so, what steps have you taken to address the issue of smuggling?
As you know, Asian carp pose a looming threat to the biological diversity, health, and economic growth of the Great Lakes. In the United States alone, Great Lakes fisheries generate $7 billion in economic activity each year. Recreational boating on the Great Lakes helps support more than 58,000 jobs for the states bordering the lakes. The spread of this invasive species into the Great Lakes would simply be catastrophic to Ohio and the other Great Lakes states. Your continued vigilance and improved coordination efforts are necessary. I look forward to your response.