Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

Unusually, for an average city dwelling, outdoor averse 28-year-old female I am a big fan of fishing programs, any fishing television programs; competitive fishing, sea fishing, natural documentaries, river investigation; all of them. So I have been vaguely aware of the invasion of Asian Caro for some time. 
Andrew Reeves has managed to turn what could be seen as an old man niche subject into a completely compelling and factual read. 
I completely recommend this to any nature or environment enthusiasts.
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When will we ever learn?????
Humans have this short-sighted tendency to seek a quick fix, future consequences be damned. History is full of examples.
Well, we've done it again.  In an effort to clean waters of "yucky" vegetation, we introduced the Asian carp into the southern U.S. With no natural predators, the carp, quite unsurprisingly, quickly overwhelmed the natural system. And spread, unchecked (and even encouraged), into the Mississippi River. First grass carp, then silver, black and bighead carp. In little more than a decade, they spread 2800 miles! 
These fish eat all of the plant life in a water biosphere, leaving nothing for other fish. This is causing the disruption, and eventual extinction, of all other fish. 
And talk about voracious! These carp can eat up to 20 percent of their body weight a day, and when you are talking about a fish that can reach 140 pounds, and 7 feet in length, that's a lot of eating!
And now the fight is on to prevent their entry into the Great Lakes. It's impossible to predict the damage they will inflict on those bodies of water's fish life. The cost is already running into the billions of dollars, with no end in sight. The future is grim.
And yet, Asian carp are just one of the disasters we (humans) have unleashed. Snakehead fish, pythons in the Everglases, even plants like kudzu are threatening our natural systems. 
The author does an excellent job of presenting the problem, it's history, and possible cures. However, the entire book left me feeling somewhat depressed, as I see no way out of our self-inflicted disasters.
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My brother, who enjoys kayaking, told me about a video showing a man in a boat who is armed with a baseball bat, ready to strike the giant leaping fish that fly out of the water. We may laugh, but the reality isn't funny. Those fish are foreign species from Asia. And they are taking over.

We Michiganders fear those fish as the next wave of invasive species ready to decimate our already degraded Great Lakes ecosystems. That crystal clear Lake Michigan water? It isn't a good sign, even if vacationers think its great. It is the sign of a dying lake, with already nothing much left for the fish to eat. 

And Asian carp are really, really good at eating microscopic organisms, thus competing with native fish. Plus, their waste promotes the growth of toxic algae, already a problem in Lake Erie thanks to farm fertilizer runoff--and the destruction of the wetlands that used to filter the water

If--or rather, when--the carp reach the Great Lakes, we expect a further decline in sport fish, boaters attacked by leaping fish, and an increase in water toxicity. Goodbye, recreational and fishing industries--and pure drinking water. 

How and why bighead carp were introduced in 1955 and the consequences are presented in the highly readable Overrun. 

Environmental journalist Andrew Reeves takes us on a journey, beginning with the first person to explore use of Asian carp as a natural and non-chemical way to control aquatic weeds, part of the reaction to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring warning of the harm from pesticides. 

I read Carson in the 1960s. I remember the first Earth Day. w I was a senior in high school when I bought a"Give Earth a Chance" pin.  I took ecology in college. I learned organic gardening. Sure, I too would have supported a natural control over chemicals. I am all for anything to limit the chemical profusion that once seemed the panacea for all our ills before it was revealed as a source of new ills. 

Asian carp, the aquatic-weed-eater par excellence, was introduced to clogged waterways in the South as a natural alternative to pesticides. It seemed like a great idea.

One thing we humans are good at is forgetting that when we tweak an ecosystem there are consequences. As the carp found their way into the environment the consequences became manifest. Like, competing with native species. 

Reeves visited the people who think that we should sterilize the carp to limit their population, and the people who think barriers will keep the carp where we want them, and those who believe closing down the Chicago Canal will stop them, and the people who think that fishing the carp (and introducing them to the American dinner plate) will control their numbers.  Reeves discovered that the political and environmental realities are so complex there is no easy answer. 

There is no way we are going to stop the carp. Decisions made generations ago set up a domino effect that we can't stop.

Can we restore the Great Lakes--America's--ecosystems? If the will is there, perhaps a whole-ecosystem approach can make a difference. 

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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