The results of a scientific study recently published in the journal Conservation Biology suggests that if bighead and silver carp infiltrate Lake Erie, the current biomass of game fish like perch and walleye would likely remain unchanged.
A press release from Notre Dame says scientists from the school, the U.S. Forest Service, the University of Michigan, and the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Laboratory among others acknowledged that while three bighead carp have been removed from Lake Erie since 1995, there’s no evidence of established populations in the lake. However, if populations were discovered, they don’t believe it would threaten the area’s current world-class fishery.
“Bighead and silver carp will continue to have access to the Great Lakes—it is important understand what the consequences could be if they were to establish” Marion Wittmann, the paper’s lead author and University of Notre Dame scientist, said.
The study used expert elicitation—a process of formalizing and quantifying experts’ judgments within a field when there is insufficient or unattainable data to create somewhat of an “educated guess.”
“This study uses the knowledge of the foremost Great Lakes and Asian carp experts in the field to help us understand what the impact to Lake Erie fisheries biomass may be,” David Lodge, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative and co-author, said. “But it does not estimate all the other damages potentially caused by bighead and silver carp such as those that may occur in tributaries of Lake Erie, effects to recreational activities as a result of silver carp jumping behavior.”
Of course, this study goes against previous reports that an Asian carp invasion could devastate the Great Lakes fisheries.