Funding sought for exotic species research center at the University of Minnesota

Stopping Asian carp is a priority, professor says

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

University of Minnesota Professor Peter Sorensen wants to bring the fight against exotic species like Asian carp closer to home.

Sorensen, of Sorensen Lab at the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, made his pitch to a Senate natural resources committee on Thursday, Jan. 5 at the State Capitol.

“I hate to say it, we have no way of stopping it now,” Sorensen said of Asian carp entering the state waters.

Indeed, Sorensen doesn’t even like to use the word “barriers” when speaking of bubble or sound curtains or other schemes at blocking the progress of Asian carp upriver. They can all be penetrated, he stressed.

“It’s like cancer of the environment,” he said of Asian carp and other exotics threatening the state.

Not that Sorensen, who’s looking for state funding for an exotic species research center at the university, is a fatalist. “I’m probably not as depressed as you are,” he told state senators. “Because I know there are solutions out there.”

Sorensen cited work by the university on the common carp — the invasive species Minnesotans have come to live with. Studies show these carp predictably use environmentally degraded bodies of water for spawning — healthy populations of game fish ravage carp eggs, he noted.

But through the use “Judas” carp, or carp fitted with electronic transmitters, researchers have been able to carefully track the movement of common carp.

In some experimental lakes in the western metro, carp populations have been decreased by 90 percent assisted by the exact information researchers obtained, he explained.

“Every specie has its weakness,” he said.

Sorensen argued that beyond federal funding for invasive species research being limited, the focus with Asian carp has been on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and threat posed by the carp to the Great Lakes.

It’s not a Minnesota focus, he said.

Sorensen noted that Asian carp are only one Minnesota-bound, exotic species. Another not far behind it is the Northern Snakehead, he said.

But in their native lands, these invasive species, such as zebra mussels, Asian carp, do not run rampant, he noted. Natural controls do exist, he argued.

Sorensen guessed it would cost about $750,000 to start up the research center at the university. He estimated annual funding at $1.3 million.

“This is a war we’re in,” he said of finding controls for exotic species.

Wolf Season

In other matters before the committee, a Department of Natural Resources official indicated the agency would bring a provision before lawmakers in January establishing a lottery system to obtain wolf hunting licenses.

The DNR is proposing a special wolf hunting license, and a fee for applying for one.

It’s possible the state could see a hunting season on the now federally delisted gray wolf next fall.