Tainted Spring: How well-meaning conservationists spawned a fish invasion

Asian carp proponents believed they were saving the planet. Who could have known the problems they would cause?

tainted-spring_usfws

The United States Fisheries and Wildlife Service monitors Asian carp across the Midwest. They say the population densities in the MIssissippi River Basin may be the highest in the world. U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

BY ANDREW REEVES | THE NEW TERRITORY ISSUE 03

His father is grainy in the black and white photograph, back hardwood straight on the clapboard dock. A pile of wooden debris forms a makeshift step to a rickety pier while discarded boards lie stuck in the brown swamp beside a crumbling dinghy. In the photograph I held at the University of Central Arkansas archives he stands in white shirtsleeves, contrasted against a dark tie, hands on hips. Another man, face blurred in motion, looks over the swamp at trees half rotted from rooting in standing water. It is 1955.

Step back two years. James Malone Sr., a judge in Lonoke County, Arkansas and the man in the photograph, bought a $200 parcel of land to build a “fee fishing” lake. Construction fell to the judge’s boy, Jim Malone Jr. After serving with the Navy during World War Two, Malone used the GI Bill to study law and accounting at the University of Arkansas. Neither profession stuck. After building his father’s lake, Malone turned to rice production on 160 acres. When a new law shrunk his fields by 70 percent, Malone began raising minnows as bait for Arkansas’ fledgling fish farming industry. It was that or lose everything.

He didn’t know it, but Malone’s desperate shift to fish rearing gave his life meaning—and profoundly altered North America’s ecological landscape.


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