The Corpus Callosum

Flying Carp and Homeland Security

Flying carp, also called Asian Silver Carp (among others), present a
significant risk to homeland security.  The fish can grow to
50, even 100 pounds.  Propellers on boats prompt the fish to
jump out of the water, sometimes into boats, sometimes striking boaters.

A video of this is available at the NPR site, here.
 The video shows the carp jumping into the boat, although it
does not show anyone getting hit.

The NPR story, link above, mentions that these carp are an invasive
species, difficult to eradicate.  Some people are cooking
them.  It is said that if they are smoked, the meat is better
than salmon.  But there isn’t much market for something called
carp.  Perhaps renaming them will help, according to the
people NPR interviewed.

The problem, though, the reason that the carp are a threat to homeland
security, is not that they might fly in the face of speeding boaters.
 It has nothing to do with their use as a food.
 Rather, the species threatens to enter the Great Lakes,
potentially causing massive ecological damage.  According to
Phil Powers, the director of the Center
for Michigan
, fishing in the Great Lakes has an economic
value of about seven billion dollars per year.  (i-13899a48ae372c00e692df2ad83e8d06-acrobat-icon-small.gif

They came to the USA with a purpose.  They were imported
because of their voracious appetite for algae and plankton, for the
purpose of clearing fishery ponds.  They were placed in
catfish ponds along the Mississippi.  During one or more of
the many floods in the area, some of the carp escaped.
 They’ve been working their way north, up the Mississippi,
since the early 1990’s.  

Now, they are in northern Illinois, on the threshold of entering the
Great Lakes.  A temporary, experimental
electrical field barrier
was installed a few years ago, and
seems to be working.  Installing a permanent facility would
cost about ten million dollars.  However, the funding has been
bounced around, and it remains unclear whether it will be available.

Homeland security, of could refers to the protection of life, property,
and economic security in the homeland.  The Asian Silver Carp
don’t pose a particular threat to human life, but they do pose a
serious threat to property and economic security.  The economy
of Michigan is struggling.  Loss of even a portion of the
fishing and tourism activity would compound a problem that is already

Notice that a couple of days ago, I compared the loss of life from
cervical cancer to the loss of life on 9/11.  I argued that
compulsory HPV vaccination could be considered appropriate, on the
grounds that we have accepted governmental intrusions on personal
liberty in order to maintain the security of the homeland.  

Similarly, we should not focus so much on terrorism and its potential
impact on our security.  It makes no sense to do so.
 As Powers points out, the cost of securing the Great Lakes
against the Asian Silver Carp is about 1% of what we spend in Iraq in
one day.

Here we have a known threat, with predicable consequences, and a known
solution, that is very likely to work.  The cost is low, the
potential payoff is great, and there are no reasonable political or
international consequences to taking action.  All it takes is
a Congress that gives a flying carp.



  1. #1 PhysioProf
    December 9, 2006

    Renaming the carp is likely to help sales. Patagonian tooth fish became Chilean Sea Bass, and sales of what was previously considered junk fish took off. How about “Northern Great Lakes Silver Bass”?

  2. #2 Joseph j7uy5
    December 9, 2006

    Anything that includes “Great Lakes” is good for marketing, because the Lakes still have a strongly positive connotation for people.

    That might change, if the anti-environment crowd gets its way too many times. Still, I like the idea. We could have festivals and cook-offs, celebrating the wonders of the fish. We could start to refer to Michigan as the Silver Bass capital of the world. Boast about it, write songs about it, make t-shirts, hats, etc. Have a beauty contest. Put the winner, “Miss Silver Bass,” in a parade.

    Politicians could give stump speeches, proclaiming themselves to be responsible for letting this marvelous creature into our waterways.

    It’s be better than having Michigan declare war on Illinois, for letting it happen.

  3. #3 me
    June 20, 2007

    What about “Silver River Bass”

  4. #4 @Rachel
    August 17, 2009

    GEEZ!!! These things are soo bad in the oxbow lakes of the Mississippi. I worry that somebody will get seriously injured. My husband and I still aren’t brave enough to eat them though.

  5. #5 bill wehrle
    October 4, 2009

    Properly prepared these could be the fish in McDonald’s fish sandwich. Then put the price down to $1.00 and put the item on the $1 menu and we will rid ourselves of this menace!

  6. #6 Tammy Fae
    December 30, 2009

    It’s Flying Carp Cat Food! Hey there’s an idea someone in the area could make money on. Like Charley Tuna Tommy the Flying Carp is shown in cartoon fashion bottom feeding then turns to the camera and a voice says “Sorry Tommy only good tasting Flying Carp get to be Flying Carp Cat Food.”

  7. #7 Enis Garp
    December 30, 2009

    < <<<<<>>>>>>

  8. I still cannot believe that White House officials truly don’t care about the potential devastation that these fish could cause to the Great Lakes Environment. But hey, I guess you have to take care of your friends and financial supporters before hard working Americans.

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