The reason for the high risk of invasion is because portions of the Great Lakes offer sufficient food and habitat to enable these invasive fish to spawn, survive and spread, the report's authors noted. They identified the most likely pathway for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes is via the Chicago Area Waterway System. The report suggests that the major ecological consequence resulting from the establishment and spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes would likely be an overall decline in certain native fish species, including some commercially and recreationally important ones. Such declines could occur because Asian carp would compete with prey fish that primarily eat plankton. This could lead to reduced growth rates and declines in abundance of prey fish species, and thus predatory fish would also likely decline. Asian carp also reduce survival of open-water fish larvae -- like those of walleye and yellow perch -- most likely through competition for plankton or by preying on the larvae.
However, the authors emphasized that the establishment of Asian carp in the Great Lakes and resulting ecosystem damage are not foregone conclusions. Preventing the establishment of Asian carp in the Great Lakes is the best means of avoiding harmful ecological and economic effects. Preventing establishment remains the main objective of ongoing efforts of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC), a partnership of federal and state agencies, municipalities and other groups, led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
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