Confronting the carp conundrum on the St. Croix

Courtesy of the Minnesota DNR
A bighead carp captured by the Minnesota DNR near Bayport this summer after anglers reported catching the invasive fish in the area.

People keep catching bighead carp in the St. Croix River. After the news this summer that a number of the invasive fish, which could decimate the river’s ecology, have been caught in Bayport, more reports continue to come in.

At the same time, action is happening elsewhere to protect precious waters from the fish. In June on the Mississippi River, the St. Anthony Falls lock and dam in Minneapolis was permanently closed, shutting down the city’s shipping industry in an effort to block carp from getting farther upstream.

The lock closure doesn’t do anything to help the St. Croix, but does point to a path for protecting the river.

The St. Anthony lock was closed because of efforts by boaters, anglers, environmentalists, and the U.S. Congress. Faced with the threat of invasive carp, an action plan was developed by Mississippi River users and advocates. Closing the lock was highlighted as an important tactic in that plan.

A similar proposal to protect the St. Croix is now in the works. The St. Croix River Association is currently seeking public input on a strategic plan to “prevent, contain, and control” invasive species in the river and the waters that are connected to it. View the draft plan here. The first opportunity to weigh in is this Thursday, July 9th (keep reading for details).

“The St. Croix River Basin is at risk of being deeply and negatively impacted by a suite of harmful AIS, due to both its physical connection with the Mississippi River; its proximity to the St. Paul – Minneapolis lakes, Lake Mille Lacs, and Lake Superior, all of which have a variety of AIS; and its status as a regional recreational destination,” the plan reads.

The draft plan was developed by SCRA and numerous organizations with a stake in the river, including the National Park Service, Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, St. Croix Watershed Research Station, representatives from counties and watershed districts, members of lake associations, and others.

Recommendations fall into four categories: Prevention, research and monitoring, control, and implementation of the plan by numerous organizations and agencies.

People who want to join the conversation and protect the river from invasives are encouraged to attend one of the upcoming meetings about the plan. Public meetings will be held in each of the counties in the St. Croix watershed. The first one is scheduled for Thursday, July 9, from 4 to 6 p.m. in Stillwater and the second will be July 20, from 7 to 9 p.m. in North Branch. Local citizens, river users, government staff, business-owners, and any other interested parties are encouraged to attend the meetings. Questions can be directed to Angelique Edgerton, SCRA’s Invasive Species Coordinator, at (715) 483-3300 or angeliquee@scramail.com.

Scientists believe there is still time to control the spread of carp, but that urgent action is needed.

“Although it is very disappointing to capture so many Bigheads at the same time and this far up river, the fact that they do not appear to be reproducing, at least successfully, tells us there is definitely still time to fully implement the deterrent systems my lab is presently designing for our locks and dams.  It is our goal to protect the entire state while restoring native fishes,” Peter Sorensen, lead Asian carp researcher at the University of Minnesota’s aquatic invasive species research center, stated after the carp catches in the St. Croix this summer.

Anyone who wants to use the dwindling time that remains to protect the river from invasive carp, as well as zebra mussels, mudsnails, spiny waterfleas, and other harmful exotic species, is invited to attend a meeting and offer their feedback and support.

This post was written by Greg Seitz and originally published on St. Croix 360. Follow St. Croix 360 on Twitter: @stcroix360.

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