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. (
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
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.