Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but it is also home to miles of rivers, including two national park units - the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, which meets the Mississippi at Hastings. Visitors to these national parks enjoy paddling, fishing and swimming. Combined, Minnesota’s waterways support a $4 billion a year fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation economy. However, after catching live Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi, there is no longer any doubt that this invasive species has advanced up the river into Minnesota — exposing new entry points by which the Asian carp can spread to state waters, Lake Superior, and the other Great Lakes.
Asian carp are voracious feeders that quickly consume the small plants in rivers and lakes, toppling the ecosystem food pyramid and drastically reducing native fish populations. Dramatic changes to the Mississippi River ecosystem could impact migratory birds and other wildlife that depend on the diversity of available food in the river and its floodplain. One species of carp is renowned for their ability to jump as high as 10 feet out of the water, injuring boaters. The potential of Asian carp to discourage boating and displace the prized fisheries of Minnesota will have serious economic consequences for the state and will impact visitors’ experiences in these two special national park units.
NPCA, working with partners, has launched a campaign to stop Asian carp from advancing further north into Minnesota’s waters. To date, our efforts have resulted in new legislation that calls for aggressive action, including lock closure, if carp are found further upstream; the allocation of nearly $11 million in state funding for research and barriers along the Mississippi River; and the launch of a public education campaign, including development of a new website, to educate and inform Minnesotans on what they can do to help Asian carp from moving further north.