Tuesday Edition: The Flying Fish Invasion

It just sounds so crazy, but it is true, and it is going to become a heck of a problem if fish and wildlife folks can’t find a way to stop the spread of giant 50-pound carp who leap into boats. These giants also eat so much they drive out other species. You can click here to see the dramatic increase in these fish and how far they have spread.

The invasion is so important that natural resource officials are pressing to build two unprecedented fish barriers on the Mississippi River in Iowa to block the upstream migration of Asian carp. The barriers, to be located near Dubuque and Davenport, Iowa, would emit bubbles and sound to deter the carp from entering locks when their gates are open.

These fish have been found as far south as Alabama and as far north as Illinois.

Environmentalists are desperate to control these invasive species before they spread to the Great Lakes. If they get into the Lakes, it would be a real mess trying to control them.

See a story from The Washington Post.

The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reports:

Two species of the invasive fish, bighead and silver carp, escaped from southern fish farms years ago and have moved steadily north along the Mississippi and its tributaries, threatening native fish and other aquatic life. Another species, the black carp, has also been collected in several areas, but it is unclear whether it is reproducing.

In seeking $7 million, mostly in federal funds, officials from state and federal agencies say that fish barrier projects must be started soon or the carp will pass by and infest northern waters. One bighead carp was caught in Lake Pepin south of the Twin Cities in the fall of 2003, but no others have been reported.

“We need an appropriation this year with clear directions to the Army Corps of Engineers, telling them where to put the barriers and by when,” said Mark Holsten, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Holsten said both of Minnesota’s senators have submitted budget requests for the project, and his goal is to get the barriers funded and built by the spring of 2006. The likely sites would be lock and dam 14 or 15, just north of Davenport, and lock and dam 11, just north of Dubuque.

Silver and bighead carp can grow to more than 50 pounds and have been described as “eating machines” that out-compete native species for plankton and other food. Silver carp are also a dangerous nuisance to recreational boaters and water-skiers, because the fish leap into the air when disturbed by motors and have injured people and damaged equipment.

Invasive Species Around the Country

Even if you do not have a carp problem, the topic of invasive species is a good one for you to consider as people get out on the water for the summer. Boaters nationwide are being warned to clean their boat hulls and propellers so they do not spread invasive species from waterway to waterway. 

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle report included an opinion column from a local economic professor who said:

Invasive species have been introduced into our nation intentionally and unintentionally. The real problem, though, lies with the unintentional introductions. Such introductions occur because of the discharge of ballast water by ships and because invasive species manage to stay hidden in the containers of ships transporting cargo to our ports. Ballast water is essential to this transportation function. It is taken on to enhance vessel maneuverability and stability.

Unfortunately, this same ballast water also brings destructive organisms such as the zebra mussel to the Great Lakes from Asia and green crabs from Europe to San Francisco Bay.

The economic and the ecological costs imposed by invasive species can be staggering. For instance, according to the Office of Technology Assessment, the Russian wheat aphid caused about $600 million worth of crop damage in 1987-89. David Pimentel of Cornell University has estimated the total costs of all invasive species to be more than $100 billion per year. Ecologists tell us that out of 256 vertebrate extinctions with a known cause, 109 are the result of biological invasions.

Charitable Giving Increases

Charitable giving in the United States was up 2.3% last year, partly because of the outpouring of support for tsunami victims. But giving was up across the board in the first increase in several years, according to the Giving USA Foundation, which measures such things.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a ton of resources on this topic. The Chronicle says 2005 is shaping up to be a stronger year than even 2004 for giving.

After several years of mediocre giving, this year’s report was “a really solid result,” said Hank Goldstein, chair of the Giving USA Foundation. Given the relationship between the economy and giving, the level of philanthropic growth made sense. “The economy and giving are related – with a better economy, you see a better result (in giving).”  

Patrick Rooney, director of research at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy in Indianapolis, which conducts the survey for the Giving USA Foundation, called the results “the first meaningful increase since 2000.”

Check with your local churches, schools, hospitals, community organizations and see if the national trend holds true.

Other highlights of this year’s Giving USA report include:

Individual giving by the living continues to be the most significant element of the total picture, estimated at $187.92 billion, representing 75.6 percent of total giving;

  • Bequests were estimated at $19.8 billion, an increase of 9.2 percent (6.4 after inflation) compared to the revised estimate of $18.13 billion. Notably, bequests in last year’s report were originally estimated at more than $20 billion;

  • Giving by foundations and by business/corporations/corporate foundations both grew by the same percentage, 7.3 percent (4.5 after inflation). Foundations granted out an estimated $28.8 billion (11.6 percent of all contributions). Businesses, corporations, and corporate foundations gave $12 billion in cash and in-kind donations. According to figures from The Foundation Center in New York City, corporate foundation grant making increased by an estimated $134 million (3.9 percent);

  • Religion grew to $88.3 billion (up 4.4 percent, 1.7 percent after inflation) and is 35.5 percent of all donations;

  • Education remained second largest, estimated at $33.84 billion, rising by 5.4 percent (2.7 after inflation) following three years of declines. It is 13.6 percent of all giving;

  • Foundations received $24 billion, an 11 percent increase (8.2 after inflation). According to a recent report from The Foundation Center, gifts to foundations were $21.62 billion, which was a 12.8 percent increase compared to its previous year data;

  • Health organizations saw an increase to $21.95 billion, which was 5.1 percent growth (2.3 percent after inflation). Such giving was 8.8 percent of the total;

  • Human service organizations experienced their third consecutive inflation-adjusted decline, falling 1.1 percent after inflation. They received $19.17 billion and represent 7.7 percent of all giving;

  • Public-society benefit groups, which include the United Way system, raised $12.96 billion in 2004 for 6.8 percent growth (4.1 after inflation).

The surprise in the year may be the sources of growth. While individual giving consistently remains the single most significant source of all giving, other sources outpaced its rise. Bequests showed a wide swing from the previous year, increasing 6.4 percent compared to the previous year. This comes off a large (15.2 percent) decrease in bequest giving the previous year.

Rural Journalism

My old friend Al Cross, a longtime correspondent for The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, is now at the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. The group’s website is chock full of story ideas for journalists covering rural issues.

For example, the website includes reports on tobacco farmers who are now trying to figure out how to grow something else that will be anywhere near as profitable as tobacco was.

One farmer started experimenting with mushroom farming.

The site also includes a special report on covering the meth epidemic in rural America.

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Editor’s Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts, and other materials from a variety of websites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed, and a link will be provided, whenever possible.

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