Press statement: It’s time for state action on invasive carp

Hundreds of large silver fish leaping into the air

If Minnesota acts now, we may prevent the invasion of silver carp, known for leaping when disturbed and causing significant ecological damage. (Photo courtesy of Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.)

March 23, 2023, the state Department of Natural Resources announced the catch of 30 silver carp. Friends of the Mississippi River and the National Parks Conservation Alliance issued the press statement below in response.  

Unprecedented silver carp catch underscores the urgent need to protect Minnesota’s rivers and lakes

This morning, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced the capture of 30 silver carp in the Mississippi River near Winona, Minnesota.

This afternoon, the Minnesota Senate will hear from experts and advocates calling for a deterrent system to protect Minnesota’s rivers and lakes from this invasive fish. This deterrent system would be installed at Lock and Dam 5 — just upstream from where the silver carp were caught. 

“We needed a barrier yesterday,” said Colleen O’Connor Toberman of Friends of the Mississippi River, a Twin Cities-based advocacy and conservation organization. “Invasive carp are already in Minnesota. And while it’s unclear if the recently-caught fish are reproducing, we know we’re on borrowed time.”

Currently, Minnesota does not have protections in place in the Mississippi River downstream of Minneapolis, where a taller lock and dam (Upper St. Anthony Falls) remains closed and acts as a barrier. “This leaves 175 miles of Minnesota’s Mississippi River exposed to this imminent threat, along with Lake Pepin, the Minnesota and St. Croix rivers, and countless other connected waterways,” said O’Connor Toberman.

According to expert Dr. Peter Sorensen at the University of Minnesota, invasive carp cause extensive damage to ecosystems. Silver carp are also known for leaping several feet out of the water. And weighing up to 40 pounds each, the giant fish can easily injure boaters.

Friends of the Mississippi River, the National Parks Conservation Association and other concerned groups have banded together to call for an invasive carp barrier in the river in Winona. Their proposal is included in bill (SF 2037) scheduled to go before the Minnesota Senate Environment, Climate, and Legacy committee Thursday, March 23. So far 18 organizations in the Stop Carp Coalition have endorsed the bill. 

“We have two national parks – the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway – that host thousands of visitors each year and help support Minnesota’s $4.4 billion fishing economy. Invasive carp threaten all of this and we need action now, especially now that we have a solution on the table. The recent capture of 30 invasive carp south of our national park waters makes it clear that we must pass legislation that will fund a carp barrier and protect our most invaluable resources and our economy,” said Christine Goepfert, Stop Carp Coalition co-chair and campaign director with the National Parks Conservation Association.

Past advocacy, often buoyed by previous carp catches and monitoring results, spurred many of the action steps being taken by the DNR today. The current bill calls for the staff, funding and direction necessary for the DNR to move forward with a barrier near where the 30 silver carp were recently caught. 

“If we don’t act now, Minnesota will be left with far more expensive but less effective long-term removal and management options,” said O’Connor Toberman. “We’ll have an unhealthy river devoid of recreation and only ourselves to blame.” 

Media contacts

  • Colleen O’Connor Toberman, Friends of the Mississippi River, Land Use & Program Planning Program Director, 651-222-2193 x29 
  • Christine Goepfert, National Parks Conservation Association, Midwest Campaign Director, 612-209-8564 

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