Congress Introduces Bill to Protect Great Lakes Boaters, Anglers, Fishery from Dangerous Non-Native Species

Bill Authorizes Funding for Last Line of Defense against Asian Carp

Ann Arbor, Mich. (January 19) – Congress introduced legislation yesterday to fund the last line of defense against the non-native Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, causing havoc for boaters and anglers, and threatening the region’s $4.5 billion fishery. “Passing this legislation would be one step closer to fully protecting our Great Lakes,” said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association and co-chairman of the Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition. “Asian carp present a danger to people’s health, the region’s economy, and recreational opportunities in national parks and lakeshores. The electric barrier authorized by this legislation offers a manageable solution to keeping Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. It’s time for Congress to pass and fund this bill.”

After years of Congressional scrambling to keep a temporary electric barrier working, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Great Lakes Asian Carp Barrier Act (HR553 and S336), which will provide approximately $9 million to construct and maintain a permanent electric barrier. Just last year, the barrier looked to be doomed except for a last minute amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill.

“Keeping the Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes is a top priority for the people who rely on the lakes for their jobs, recreation and way of life,” said Andy Buchsbaum, co-chair of the Healing Our Waters®–Great Lakes Coalition and director of the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation. “The threat posed by the Asian carp underscores the need to act now. If Asian Carp make it to Lake Michigan, they will turn the Great Lakes into giant carp ponds. We applaud Rep. Biggert and Sen. Durbin for introducing this bill, and hope Congress passes and funds it without delay.” Fisheries biologists believe that if the Asian carp enter the Great Lakes they will out-compete native fish for food and habitat, disrupt the ecosystem, and crash the region’s $4.5 billion fishery.

“Delaying action on this important bill could be the death knell for the Great Lakes,” said Joel Brammeier, associate director for policy of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “It’s time to permanently fund the barrier to protect a resource that is the center of the region’s economic and cultural identity.”

The large fish also pose a risk to boaters. Asian carp launch themselves out of the water when startled by the sound of boat engines. Boaters have been injured by airborne carp, which can weigh upwards of 60 pounds.

The electric barrier serves as the last line of defense against the Asian carp, a nonnative species which is migrating up the Mississippi River and threatening to enter Lake Michigan through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The electric barrier on the canal is designed to repel the carp back from entering Lake Michigan.

More than 180 aquatic invasive species have been discovered in the Great Lakes. Every 28 weeks, on average, one new non-native species enters the Great Lakes. “Keeping the Asian carp out of the lakes is a corner stone of Great Lakes restoration,” said Emily Green, co-chair of the Healing Our Waters®–Great Lakes Coalition and director of the Great Lakes program for the Sierra Club. “The electric barrier is one of the manageable solutions we have to protect the Great Lakes. It’s time that Congress act now so that the native fish are healthy, the waters are safe for swimming and boating, and the beaches are clean for our children and grand children to enjoy for many years to come.”

Sponsors of the house bill (HR553) include:

  • Judy Biggert (R-IL)
  • Dave Camp (R-MI)
  • John Conyers (D-MI)
  • John Dingell (D-MI)
  • Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI)
  • Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
  • Brian Higgins (D-NY)
  • Pete Hoekstra (R-MI)
  • Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
  • Dale Kildee (D-MI)
  • Mark Kirk (R-IL)
  • Sander Levin (D-MI)
  • Daniel Lipinski (D-IL)
  • Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)
  • Candice Miller (R-MI)
  • Thomas Petri (R-WI)
  • Thomas M Reynolds (R-NY)
  • Mike Rogers (R-MI)
  • Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
  • Bart Stupak (D-MI)
  • Betty Sutton (D-OH)
  • Jim Walsh (R-NY)

Sponsors of the Senate bill (S336) include:

  • Evan Bayh (D-IN)
  • Richard Durbin (D-IL)
  • Herb Kohl (D-WI)
  • Carl Levin (D-MI)
  • Richard Lugar (R-IN)
  • Barack Obama (D-IL)
  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • George V. Voinovich (R-OH)

For more information, visit:


Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation–(734) 904-1589;
Andrea Keller, National Parks Conservation Association–(202) 454-3332;
Nora Ferrell, Valerie Denney Communications–(312) 408-2580, x 24;
Joel Brammeier, Alliance for the Great Lakes–773-590-6494;
Emily Green, Sierra Club—(608) 695-4994;

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