Advocacy groups are calling on Congress to modernize the 111-year-old Lacey Act and help prevent species such as Asian carp from coming into this country.
Only about 40 animal groups have been prohibited under the Lacey Act, and usually long after the animals have been imported, escaped into the wild and are causing harm, according to the groups.
By modernizing the Lacey Act, the groups say, Congress can empower the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assess the potential risks associated with a species proposed for importation before deciding whether to allow its trade into the United States.
"Stopping Asian carp should have happened before the first shipment. This incredible threat, this incredible expense, was avoidable," said Jennifer Nalbone, director of navigation and invasive species for Great Lakes United, in a statement. "It's time for the antiquated Lacey Act to be modernized so that we never have to fight off another invasion like this again."
In addition to Asian carp and northern snakehead, aquarium clams and snails such as the Asiatic clam, and banded and oriental mystery snails have established populations throughout the Great Lakes region. If these species had been screened for invasiveness, their importation could have been prevented.
"We need to stop the Asian carp and we also need to learn a lesson from all this," said Rick Unger, president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, in a statement. "It's time to make the changes necessary to ensure the next big invader doesn't threaten the Great Lakes fishing and boating community."