The Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan Boating Industries Association and the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association announced co-sponsorship of the first-ever “Asian Carp Summit” to be held during the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Industry Legislative Conference Sept. 13 at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing.

The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association will continue as a co-sponsor of the legislative conference.

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The “Asian Carp Summit” represents the first time Michigan tourism business and outdoor recreation groups have ever collaborated on an issue of common concern.

Asian Carp have been working their way up the Mississippi River basin since their initial release from flooded fish farms in the southern United States in the 1970s. These invasive fish are as close as northern Illinois and DNA traces have been found in waters above an electric barrier designed to prevent their entry into the Great Lakes.

Silver and Bighead Carp are plankton feeders that can consume 5 to 20 percent of their body weight and are prolific breeders. Asian carp can grow to 40 to over 100 pounds, and when alarmed Silver Carp can leap up to 10 feet out of the water. If allowed to establish sustainable populations in the Great Lakes, they will eventually spread to tributaries and inland lakes, doing great damage to Michigan’s commercial and sports fisheries, pleasure boating opportunities and the state’s image as an attractive vacation destination.

“Our goal is to educate tourism industry and outdoor recreation stakeholders on this critical issue, which has frightening implications for Michigan’s environment and economy,” said Erin McDonough, MUCC executive director. “We must raise awareness to the point of action by the sportsmen and women of Michigan and the Great Lakes region.”

Said MBIA president John Ropp: “The potential destruction of a $3.6 billion commercial and sports fishing industry and $3.9 billion boating industry by Asian carp should be alarming to all segments of Michigan’s leadership. And the thought of a 40 pound Silver Carp jumping in front of a boat traveling at 30 miles per hour is chilling to pleasure boaters everywhere. We must act now to prevent such possibilities.”

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Added MLTA president Steve Yencich: “Asian carp threaten all that tourism represents in the Great Lakes region and Michigan stands at ground zero. If the federal government allows them into the Great Lakes, Asian Carp will destroy much of what the ‘Pure Michigan’ brand stands for, and that makes this an issue for rural, resort, urban and winter tourism operators across the state.”

The ultimate goal of the summit is to seek passage of a concurrent House/Senate resolution calling on Congress to act immediately to pass the Stop Asian Carp Act, sponsored by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Midland) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing). The act would require the speedy creation of an action plan to permanently separate Lake Michigan from the Chicago Area Waterway System, where experts believe Asian carp could enter and cause irreparable harm to the Great Lakes.

The organizations said the separation will help alleviate not only the possibility of Asian Carp entering the Great Lakes, but the overall threat of invasive species to Michigan’s waters. More species are introduced into the Great Lakes every year and, while the groups agree on the need to focus on the carp now, they also agree on the need to prevent all invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs is largest statewide conservation organization in the nation, with more than 42,000 members and 250 affiliated clubs.

Established in 1954, the Michigan Boating Industries Association is a state-wide, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing, promoting and protecting the marine industry in Michigan.

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Based in Lansing, the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association is a 106-year-old trade association that educates, markets, and advocates on behalf of Michigan’s lodging and tourism industries.