The plume of fine-grained sediments from the Mississippi River is clearly distinguished even far from land, as in this clip. When fresh, cold water flows out into a warm, salt water body like the gulf of Mexico, density differences can preserve the two water bodies as separate for many kilometers before they are finally mixed.
“History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.”
—Blue Oyster Cult
In the 1970’s, Arkansas farmers began to import four species of Asian carp to the United States; black carp, silver carp, grass carp, and bighead carp. Asian carp are like large underwater vacuum cleaners, sucking up any and all nutrients as it swims through the water and mud. Thus, they were often stocked in farmer’s commercial pondss to keep the clean from agricultural wastes and runoff. Of course, the introduction of Asian carp is problematic; they are a non-native species with no natural predators, they reproduce quickly and in great numbers, and their feeding methods are very destructive. Supposedly, the carp were able to escape from their ponds into the Mississippi River due to flooding. Once the carp invaded the Mississippi River, all hell broke loose.
Immediately the carp began to reproduce exponentially, quickly invading the Mississippi River while destroying everything in their path. They have annihilated entire freshwater habitats and driven local species to extinction. In many parts of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, the Asian carp has been so destructive that they are inhabited with nothing but thousands of Asian carp. Silver carp are especially noted for their jumping ability, and often seen jumping like mad when boats go by, as pictured above.
Today the Asian carp threat has become a critical issue. The species are now invading tributary rivers of the Mississippi, and considering that ¾ths of the United State's waterways are part of or connected to the Mississippi watershed, this is a truly frightening problem. Perhaps the biggest worry is that the Asian carp will eventually invade the Great Lakes, an event which would be devastating to the Great Lakes habitat. The US Army Corps of Engineers has actually installed an electric fence in the Illinois River to prevent carp from entering Lake Michigan. However, Asian carp DNA has been found in Lake Michigan, and Asian carp has been found to have infested ponds near the Great Lakes. It’s only a matter of time. Ecologists, conservationists, and other scientists predict that unless nothing is done, Asian carp will have infested most of America’s freshwater rivers and lakes, and will continue north into Canada.
Currently some measures are being done to curtail the Asian carp apocalypse. The US Fish and Wildlife Service considers the Asian carp a pest species, therefore anyone can catch them in any quantity without a license or regulation. The US Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Deartment of Interior have developed action plans, but they are very slow to do anything. Many local towns hold annual culls where fisherman will go out in boats and catch tens of thousands of carp, however, these events never even put a small dent in the carp population. Many professional fisherman are catching Asian carp for fertilizer and pet food. Despite myths, the Asian carp is a good eating fish that is comparable to cod, but needs to be carefully cleaned and de-boned. Many chefs and cooks along the Mississippi River are trying to reverse the myth and encourage people to begin eating carp. If you are ever visiting, please do your part, and murder a carp or two, or ten thousand.
Asian Carp Baja Tacos
Recipe from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
10-15 small taco-sized fillet portions (recipe can be used for fish such as crappie and perch as well)
1 can spray-on olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup milk
½ package Taco Seasoning Mix
Package of small, soft, white corn tortillas
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ package Taco Seasoning Mix
2 Tbsp salsa
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. First, prepare the fish. In a medium-sized bowl, combine bread crumbs, garlic powder, half of the taco seasoning mix, and salt to taste. Dip individual fillets in milk, and transfer to bread crumb mixture until completely coated on all sides. Place on a cookie sheet, lined with aluminum foil. Repeat until all fillets have been breaded. Spray all sides of breaded fillets with a light coating of olive oil. Place in pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and slightly crispy.
While fish is baking, mix together in a separate bowl, all ingredients for the Baja sauce. Place in refrigerator until fish is ready. When fish is done baking, heat the tortillas in the stove until warm, or microwave for 35 seconds. Assemble tacos by adding 2 to 3 fillet portions, shredded cabbage, and Baja sauce to each tortilla. Top with chopped tomato. Serve.
The Atchafalaya River is where the Mississippi River wants to flow. The first map up there is an elevation map, which shows just how the Atchafalaya River is a far superior waterway, since it’s deeper and more direct. People have been doing seriously extensive work for a long time to make sure the Mississippi continues flowing to New Orleans.