The spread of Asian carp in Minnesota waters could threaten the $4 billion fishing and recreational boating industry. With carp now entering Minnesota from water systems in Iowa as well as the Mississippi River, the state Department of Natural Resources says it's time to take stock of the risks.
In a report Friday, the DNR acknowledges the impossibility of knowing how Asian carp will affect Minnesota's fishing and boating traditions, according to a story at Minnesota Public Radio’s website. But the department notes that in other areas of the country where they've become established, the carp sometimes make up as much as 90 percent of the biomass of the entire fish community.
The report analyzes the boating and fishing economy in four sections of the Mississippi watershed, including prime destinations such as Lake Mille Lacs, the Brainerd and Whitefish chains, and Leech, Cass, and Winnibigoshish.
The report estimates that boaters and anglers spend more than $44 million annually on their trips. It points out that the tourism economy attracts people from all over the world and that Minnesota's famous lakes in northwoods settings are an important part of that draw. It raises the question of whether the spread of the voracious Asian carp will tarnish that reputation and discourage visitors.
Steve Hirsch, director of the department’s Division of Waters and Ecological Resources, said the agency wants to be able to compare relative costs, especially in difficult decisions such as whether to close the Mississippi River locks.
"The question is going to come up, if there's economic impacts on businesses associated with closing the lock," Hirsch said. "What are the economic impacts if we don't close it and the fish get upstream?"
The Metropolitan Council has just released an analysis of the effects of closing the Upper St. Anthony Lock. That report says closing the lock would shift barge transport to trucks at a cost of about $24 million during the next 30 years.