Updated: Wednesday, 14 Jul 2010, 5:58 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 14 Jul 2010, 7:32 AM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Will the Great Lakes soon fall victim to the destructive appetite of a foreign fish?
Asian carp were originally imported into the United States in the 1970s to clean catfish ponds. But when those fish farms flooded the carp were transferred to the Mississippi River and they've been multiplying ever since. If they make the Great Lakes in droves it could threaten our fishing industry.
You may recall our special assignment back in May on Asian carp, those huge hungry jumping fish.
In the past three weeks carp were found just south of Lake Michigan, which means the fish made it beyond the electrical barrier located near Chicago that was suppose to keep the fish out of the Great Lakes.
Jennifer Nalbone at Great Lakes United says a handful of carp have even been spotted in Lake Erie, possibly dumped by people in the seafood trade, but there's no evidence of a large population like there are in the Mississippi and Wabash Rivers.
But if the Wabash River were to flood, the carp could be transferred to the Maume River which feeds directly into Lake Erie, posing a major threat to our lake. and its multi-billion dollar fishing industry.
New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, "It will devastate the fishing industry. It will hurt our small businesses and in this tough economy the last thing we need is something to destroy the way people provide for their families."
Asian carp can grow to be up to four-feet long and weigh 100 pounds. They are an invasive species that was accidentally introduced to the Mississippi River Basin twenty years ago, and have thrived ever since.
"They are extremely hungry fish. They eat a tremendous amount of algae and plankton which is the basis of the food chain. So, what you may see is a collapse in the food chain in Lake Erie," said Jennifer Nalbone, Director of Invasive Species and Navigation for Great Lakes United.
"The Asian carp in areas that they have invaded have out-compete native fish species," said Nalbone.
At a congressional hearing, lawmakers considered completely separating the water from the Mississippi River and Great Lakes Basins, so they never mix.
"It is widely accepted that the permanent solution to this Asian carp crisis is making sure that they can't swim into the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin," said Nalbone.
Some environmentalists believe this project will take years, and by then Asian carp will have won the battle leaving fishermen with everything to lose.