Skip to content

Keeping Carp out of the Commons

The video is stunning.  Hundreds of large fish leap out of the water, high enough to strike boaters in the head as they motor through waters that have been taken over by Asian carp. These fish leap out of the water when startled (by the sound of a motorboat for example) and are so successful at reproducing that they are a serious threat to any habitat they enter. Asian carp have already made their way up the Mississippi River system from sewage treatment plants in the far South where they were introduced to eat algae. As Asian Carp migrate up through the river system, they are poised to enter the Great Lakes.  At an Asian Carp forum on the shores of Lake Ontario on November 8th, authorities from both sides of the border gave impressive presentations about their efforts to prevent the fish from doing so.

Asian carp are an invasive species that pose such a threat to the Great Lakes that both American and Canadian governments are mobilizing resources and creating emergency plans.  Special weapons and containment devices have been developed, along with fast response teams and undercover sting operations. DNA tests, mobile X-Ray trucks, and hyrdroguns are among the many technical undertakings on the Southern side of the border. Somewhere, there is an 8000 litre stockpile of deadly fish poison, Rotanone, kept ready in a Cold War era bunker.  Just about the only thing that has not been done, and yet the only thing that would truly prevent the entry of Asian Carp, is the erection of a physical barrier between the Lakes and infested rivers.

The threat of Asian Carp provides a perfect example of the need for a Great Lakes Commons model. A ‘commons’ model asserts that water is a common heritage that belongs to the Earth, other species and current and future generations. A ‘commons’ framework requires a shift in water governance to prioritize public consultation as well as the human right to water and environmental protection over economic development. There is no doubt that it will be a difficult decision to close off a valuable shipping route, but our Great Lakes are more valuable. The entry of Asian Carp into the Great Lakes would be devastating and affect each and every person living and benefiting from the Lakes. We all need a say in stopping it. Let’s keep the Carp out of the Commons.