Nutria and Asian Carp are both invasive species that threaten South Carolina water environments. They differ in that Nutria are a current problem in South Carolina, while Asian Carp pose a threat but have not yet entered South Carolina waterways.
Nutria are furry mammals, and are often referred to as “swamp beavers.” They are native to Argentina, but were introduced in the United States in the 1930′s in an attempt to control aquatic weed growth in Louisianna. Unfortunately, Nutria rank high on the food chain- their only common natural predators are alligators and humans. Nutria quickly spread across the nation’s south eastern coastlines and are now present in South Carolina. Since their introduction to South Carolina waters, Nutria have damaged local habitats by consuming marsh grasses, rice, and sugarcane crops. Nutria also burrow tunnels that damage levees, drainage canals and other structures.
It may be too late to eradicate Nutria from South Carolina waterways without major effort, but there is still hope for South Carolina with regards to another invasive species, Asian Carp. Asian Carp are a serious issue in much of the United States. Asian carp were originally brought in as both a food source and to control snail populations in United States waterways. These carp now damage national waters by competing with native species for food and consuming crustaceans and other aquatic species. Luckily, Asian Carp have not yet damaged South Carolina waterways. There are many types of Asian Carp, and when SC officials saw the damage that this species can create, they banned Silver, Big Head, and Black Asian Carp from entering South Carolina borders. Sterile Grass Carp are the only breed of Asian Carp allowed to enter South Carolina, and even then they are closely regulated by the SC Dept. of Natural Resources.
I found it interesting that both the Nutria and the Asian Carp species were introduced into national waterways in an attempt to curb other aquatic invasive species. It reminds me of the story about the old lady who swallowed the spider to catch the fly and etcetera until she had swallowed a horse or something equally ridiculous. I think it must be a difficult thing to predict what kind of implications introducing a new species will have on a habitat because each species interacts with multiple other species and even the nonliving aspects of the environment in complex ways. Therefore I would avoid using nonnative species to control damaging invasive species in an area, unless there was no other logical option.
This article made me question whether or not native species are also damaging to an environment. I feel like if a native species contributed to erosion as the nutria do, for example, it would just be seen as a natural part of the species’ role in the environment. If an area is left alone after a new species is introduced, won’t the new species assimilate into the habitat? I also wonder what percentage of the fish population in South Carolina is nonnative. I didn’t mention these above, but Sunfish are also listed as invasive species in SC, and I remember catching a few of those as a child.
I obtained the information for this information from a SC government pdf addressing invasive species. I primarily referred to pages 15-19.
I located the information for the first three sentences of paragraph two here.
More extensive information about Asian Carp invasion can be found here, especially in the links at the bottom of the page.
Image slides containing information on Nutria invasion can be found here .
So were the Nutria only introduced in SC? Or was SC the only state with an aquatic weed problem? And have they been causing havoc since the 1930s? Or is this problem more recent because we have increased the construction of levees and canals? It’s interesting that an otter (off all things) would cause such problems…
I found it really interesting that they were introduced on purpose to counteract weed growth. Good analogy to the ‘old lady who swallowed a fly’ story; it made a lot of sense.
Asian carp are actually plump tender, and rich in protein. Introducing them to the food industry might be a good idea!
I revised this post, so hopefully it will answer some of your questions now Max. Sorry for the confusion.