Pryor: Ban on Asian carp could backfire

March 23, 2011 at 7:32 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., says a law banning the transport of live Asian carp across state lines is unfair to fish farmers.

While the U.S. government is struggling to keep the invasive species out of the Great Lakes, Pryor says he wants fish farmers compensated for losing their ability to sell their crops of live bighead since the federal government listed the bighead carp as an "injurious species" in December, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday.

"I worry that the law could even lead to greater environmental harm to the Mississippi River and Great Lakes region without mechanisms to ensure the proper disposal of the bighead carp currently sitting in aquaculture ponds in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama," Pryor wrote to President Barack Obama in December when the ban went into effect.

Farmers might just accidentally let the fish loose into the wild, Pryor said.

"Today these farmers are faced with the difficult decision of draining the ponds that currently contain bighead carp, now of little value, so that they may begin another crop cycle with a different species," he wrote. "This process could lead to the potential release of large numbers of cultured bighead carp into the Mississippi River drainage."

Arkansas fish farmer Mike Freeze says he can understand how people in the Great Lakes area might not have sympathy for the fish farmers, but he thinks they have a legitimate complaint.

"You have to remember that it was our government that conducted the research with these fish, urged the farmers to raise them to 'feed the hungry' (in an) increasing world population, and then closed the door on their best legal market without compensating the producer," Freeze said.

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