Asian carp sound innocuous enough, but they’ve got the environmental community worried. This fast-growing, aggressive fish has been slowly spreading throughout the United States since the 1970s and will likely invade the Great Lakes soon. Due to their large size (Asian carp can grow to over 100 pounds) and fast reproductive rate, many environmentalists are worried that this invasive fish will out compete native species within the Great Lakes. The Mott Foundation (see IP’s profile) does not want this to happen and has donated over $500,000 in the past few years to ensure the future of the Great Lakes, with a particular focus on Chicago.
In 2010, the Mott Foundation granted $500,000 to the Great Lakes Commission to research various ways to stop the Asian Carp from invading this important body of water. Environmental managers have been worried that an invasion by the Asian carp could wreck the current ecosystem and threaten the region’s $7 billion annual sports fishing industry. Thus, as part of their grant, the Great Lakes Commission brought together key stakeholders including shippers, businesses, boaters, tribes, and concerned citizens to evaluate the best way to re-separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River — creating a natural barrier between these two watersheds. At the time, William S. White , the Mott Foundation’s President, said “For several decades, Mott has made grants to restore and protect the Great Lakes because we see firsthand what a treasure they are.”
The Mott Foundation has continued its interest in the Great Lakes, granting another $75,000 to the Great Lakes Commission for the 2012-2013 grant period. This latest grant, titled ‘Eco-separation of the Chicago area waterway system to prevent invasion of Asian Carp’ will enable the Great Lakes Commission to build upon their previous research to stop the Asian Carp from entering the Chicago area waterways. A further $100,000 went to the National Wildlife Federation for a 2012-2014 grant period, in order to conserve the Great Lakes on a number of fronts including water quality, habitat restoration, and halting invasive species.
The Mott Foundation has long been interested in freshwater conservation and has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the Great Lakes over the years. The area remains a priority for the foundation, as does the threat of invasive species. Organizations interested in both would do well to keep an eye on the Mott Foundation and its work.