(CN) – Bipartisan legislation introduced in both houses of Congress on Thursday would bar importation of big-headed Asian carp, a giant, prolific, ravenous species that consumes vast amounts of food, other fish, and even endangers boaters. The bill’s authors say the carp could devastate the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and the Great Lakes.
Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich., and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, introduced the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act. Like bulls in a China shop, the Asian carp is “a hazard to boaters, and they damage property and cause injuries,” Sen. Levin said.
The Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act would list the bighead carp as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act, making it illegal to import, export, transport, buy or sell the fish without a permit.
Originally introduced into the United States as a management tool for aquaculture farms and sewage treatment facilities, Asian carp are voracious eaters that can grow up to 6 feet and 110 pounds. They were first used in Louisiana in the 1970s and by the mid 1990s, flooding allowed the carp to escape from fish farms.
They have spread to most of the Mississippi River watershed and the Missouri River, devastating the resources and habitats of native and sportfish.
Asian carp now account for the majority of fish in the Missouri River and are rapidly making their way to the Great Lakes.