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Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian Carp Crisis

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Intelligent investigative writing meets experiential journalism in this important look at one of North America's most voraciously invasive species.

Politicians, ecologists, and government wildlife officials are fighting a desperate rearguard action to halt the onward reach of Asian Carp, four troublesome fish now within a handful of miles from entering Lake Michigan. From aquaculture farms in Arkansas to the bayous of Louisiana; from marshlands in Indiana to labs in Minnesota; and from the Illinois River to the streets of Chicago where the last line of defense has been laid to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, Overrun takes us on a firsthand journey into the heart of a crisis. Along the way, environmental journalist Andrew Reeves discovers that saving the Great Lakes is only half the challenge. The other is a radical scientific and political shift to rethink how we can bring back our degraded and ignored rivers and waterways and reconsider how we create equilibrium in a shrinking world.

With writing that is both urgent and wildly entertaining, Andrew Reeves traces the carp's explosive spread throughout North America from an unknown import meant to tackle invasive water weeds to a continental scourge that bulldozes through everything in its path.

384 pages, Paperback

First published March 12, 2019

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Andrew Reeves

16 books1 follower

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Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,439 reviews329 followers
December 21, 2018
My brother, who enjoys kayaking, told me about a video showing a man in a boat who is armed with a baseball bat, ready to the strike giant leaping fish that fly out of the water. We may laugh, but the reality isn't funny. Those fish are foreign species from Asia. And they are taking over.

We Michiganders fear those fish as the next wave of invasive species ready to decimate our already degraded Great Lakes ecosystems. That crystal clear Lake Michigan water? It isn't a good sign, even if vacationers think its great. It is the sign of a dying lake, with already nothing much left for the fish to eat.

And Asian carp are really, really good at eating microscopic organisms, thus competing with native fish. Plus, their waste promotes the growth of toxic algae, already a problem in Lake Erie thanks to farm fertilizer runoff--and the destruction of the wetlands that used to filter the water.

If--or rather, when--the carp reach the Great Lakes, we expect a further decline in sport fish, boaters attacked by leaping fish, and an increase in water toxicity. Goodbye, recreational and fishing industries--and pure drinking water.

How and why bighead carp were introduced in 1955 and the consequences are presented in the highly readable Overrun.

Environmental journalist Andrew Reeves takes us on a journey, beginning with the first person to explore use of Asian carp as a natural and non-chemical way to control aquatic weeds, part of the reaction to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring warning of the harm from pesticides.

I read Carson in the 1960s. I remember the first Earth Day. w I was a senior in high school when I bought a"Give Earth a Chance" pin. I took ecology in college. I learned organic gardening. Sure, I too would have supported a natural control over chemicals. I am all for anything to limit the chemical profusion that once seemed the panacea for all our ills before it was revealed as a source of new ills.

Asian carp, the aquatic-weed-eater par excellence, was introduced to clogged waterways in the South as a natural alternative to pesticides. It seemed like a great idea.

One thing we humans are good at is forgetting that when we tweak an ecosystem there are consequences. As the carp found their way into the environment the consequences became manifest. Like, competing with native species.

Reeves visited the people who think that we should sterilize the carp to limit their population, and the people who think barriers will keep the carp where we want them, and those who believe closing down the Chicago Canal will stop them, and the people who think that fishing the carp (and introducing them to the American dinner plate) will control their numbers. Reeves discovered that the political and environmental realities are so complex there is no easy answer.

There is no way we are going to stop the carp. Decisions made generations ago set up a domino effect that we can't stop.

Can we restore the Great Lakes--America's--ecosystems? If the will is there, perhaps a whole-ecosystem approach can make a difference.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,302 reviews27 followers
June 15, 2020
Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian Carp Crisis is environmental journalist Andrew Reeves' in-depth look at just how the Asian Carp species that were brought into the United States to help solve one environmental issue ended up causing one of the biggest threats to the Great Lakes to date.  Reeves gets to the heart of the matter by going back to the beginning when the first carp were brought over as well as looking into what invasive species are as a whole and their impact on the environment. 

As an environmental scientist who lives on one of the Great Lakes, Overrun was of particular interest to me.  I do a lot of education on invasive species and wanted to learn more about these species of fish.  Overrun is a very comprehensive look at the Asian Carp crisis over time.  You do not need to be a scientist to understand the issue at all.  Reeves tells the story of these misunderstood fish through a series of interviews with those who have worked with the fish from the beginning, his own research and observations from the field.  I was very interested in exactly how the species of Asian Carp were brought to the US and was meant to be an ecologically friendly alternative to herbicides in order to clean up waterways. Unfortunately, after this step it seems like everything went wrong for the Asian Carp.  Reeves conducts intriguing interviews with those who were responsible for the first Asian Carp in the country, those dealing with their impacts and those trying to solve the crisis.   I also enjoyed his time in the field working with the fish and seeing the issues that they caused.  I was most amazed by just how resilient these fish are, it seems that everyone has underestimated them.  The money that has gone into these fish is astounding, because of this alone I can't believe that more people aren't interested in this issue.  In addition, their presence has seemed to create a domino effect of other issues in waterways and riparian ecosystems including environmental justice issues.  Overall, the Asian Carp crisis highlights human's relationship with water and nature and the unintended consequences of our actions.  

This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
Profile Image for Randal White.
794 reviews69 followers
January 31, 2019
When will we ever learn?????
Humans have this short-sighted tendency to seek a quick fix, future consequences be damned. History is full of examples.
Well, we've done it again. In an effort to clean waters of "yucky" vegetation, we introduced the Asian carp into the southern U.S. With no natural predators, the carp, quite unsurprisingly, quickly overwhelmed the natural system. And spread, unchecked (and even encouraged), into the Mississippi River. First grass carp, then silver, black and bighead carp. In little more than a decade, they spread 2800 miles!
These fish eat all of the plant life in a water biosphere, leaving nothing for other fish. This is causing the disruption, and eventual extinction, of all other fish.
And talk about voracious! These carp can eat up to 20 percent of their body weight a day, and when you are talking about a fish that can reach 140 pounds, and 7 feet in length, that's a lot of eating!
And now the fight is on to prevent their entry into the Great Lakes. It's impossible to predict the damage they will inflict on those bodies of water's fish life. The cost is already running into the billions of dollars, with no end in sight. The future is grim.
And yet, Asian carp are just one of the disasters we (humans) have unleashed. Snakehead fish, pythons in the Everglases, even plants like kudzu are threatening our natural systems.
The author does an excellent job of presenting the problem, it's history, and possible cures. However, the entire book left me feeling somewhat depressed, as I see no way out of our self-inflicted disasters.
Profile Image for Eloise.
362 reviews9 followers
Want to read
April 28, 2019
Unusually, for an average city dwelling, outdoor averse 28-year-old female I am a big fan of fishing programs, any fishing television programs; competitive fishing, sea fishing, natural documentaries, river investigation; all of them. So I have been vaguely aware of the invasion of Asian Caro for some time.
Andrew Reeves has managed to turn what could be seen as an old man niche subject into a completely compelling and factual read.
I completely recommend this to any nature or environment enthusiasts.
Profile Image for Ashley Kennedy.
397 reviews
December 17, 2020
An extremely informative look into an environmental problem I knew very little about, despite being a scientist who tries to stay abreast of conservation issues. This book got my blood pressure up quite a bit, furious with the people who allowed this problem to unfold, even though there is no single culprit to point a finger at-- the introduction and proliferation of Asian carp in the US is due to a complicated vortex of factors involving multiple levels of government, poor land use planning, and good ol' human hubris.

I do wish the book had ended with a specific call to action that the average reader could do to help (there is a vague/implied call to vote for scientifically literate leaders, but that's about it), but I don't think that's a failing of the author so much as a lack of viable options (at least, options that could be taken on an individual scale). There are some glimmers of hope involving new technologies, but they all seem to involve a massive amount of effort, funding, and coordination that seems increasingly unlikely to materialize. So, the unhappy conclusion (as is usually the case with invasive species) is "Asian carp are here to stay."
103 reviews
June 21, 2022
For the most part, I liked this book. It explained how Asian carp came to North America and spread from Arkansas to large portions of the Mississippi drainage. I was generally aware of the issue, but this book provided a lot more detail, including details about many attempts to control spread of the carp.
The part I didn't like was the Conclusion. First, this is the first place in the book that any substantial reference is made to impact of human changes to the natural habitat on spread of the carp and potential tools to reverse some of those changes. IMO, that merits its own chapter.
Second, the author takes an unnecessarily political turn by directly attacking the Trump administration (like him or hate him, roughly half of U.S. voters supported him in 2016 and 2020). The problem for the author is that many of the problems he describes in the book result from actions/inactions of the alphabet soup of administrative agencies that Trump was skeptical of and over which Trump sought to re-asset some level of executive control.
Profile Image for Justin.
47 reviews1 follower
December 11, 2019
Andrew Reeves did something incredible with Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian Carp Crisis: He took a topic about which I knew next to nothing and made me genuinely care about it. Focusing on the flourishing flounder in the title, Overrun follows the author's detailed investigation of the arrival, dispersal and proliferation of this invasive aquatic pest that is now choking so many of North America's waterways and threatening the very existence of our native fish. It's a fascinating journey, and what made it more so was how unexpected my enjoyment of it truly was. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in environmental issues and the more subtle forms of human-driven climate and ecological change.
Profile Image for David Corleto-Bales.
1,011 reviews59 followers
February 25, 2020
Back in the 1960s, someone got the idea that the Asian grass carp could help clear American waterways of surplus vegetation and improve the ecosystem. The carp introduction would be strictly controlled. However, they got out. What followed over the last 50 years is probably the most pervasive infestation of a non-native fish anywhere in the world. Its economic and environmental impact is staggering. Courageous efforts are being made to keep them out of the Great Lakes.
January 5, 2020
Fascinating story of how our awakening environmental consciousness post Silent Spring (no chemicals) led to disastrous decision-making (biological controls!). Cool approach to telling the story, too. Starting where carp first "landed" in Arkansas and then moving out into and up the waterways they've since invaded.
Profile Image for Robin.
426 reviews5 followers
October 11, 2019
Incredibly informative. We've done some crazy shit to the environment and we'll have some major reckoning.
Profile Image for Jon Ewert.
8 reviews
January 18, 2020
Superbly researched and compellingly written. As expected he spins it out into the nature of our relationships with the entire living world around us, and does so effectively.
60 reviews
June 12, 2019
This book has given me an interesting and informative read on a subject I literally have no clue about ! Some of the Carp Breeds Bigheads,Silver Carp,Black Carp can weigh as much as 35lbs to a 100Ibs they can be Silver coloured to olive green ...People have even been injured by them.. This book was written in clusters with follow up interviews in Diners,Canoes,Powerboats,Labs,fish farms,wetland Preserves, City halls,Taco bars!! fine Restaurants,Processing Plants...Biologists, Chefs, Fishmongers, Lawyers,Fishers, Shippers, economists ,resource officers, bureaucrats, politicians,engineers were all interviewed for there input ..Asian Carp have given us a unique opportunity on how to manage them.
Malone shifted from reproduction to fish rearing, and built the family business around the Grass Eating Carp and its weed eating ability's... Whilst establishing the worlds largest hatchery of Chinese fish in doing so the fish spread across America and Canada.
The fish were traded among east and west nations for food and weed control. After 1962 most nations were calling Carp an ecology helper it was used to eliminate Duckweed, eel grass,needle brush, and other weeds..
Silver Carp also ate Phyto Plankton..Eastern Arkansas played an important role in 1978 it was intentionally stocked in 125 lakes.. Those handling the carp would either wear a baseball catcher's mask for protection or a fencing mask.. Grass Carp could destroy the rice Industry.
By end of 1970 only allowed in 4 states Arkansas,Alabama,Mississippi, Kansas and Florida ,Iowa, Mis by permit only all other states banned sale and import.
Aquatic plants if left unchecked can destroy whole fisheries ,choking up space , clog pipes of hydro electric or nuclear power power plants, also can halt navigation and prevent land from draining,It Is also a flood risk, and can transmit disease, DDT was sprayed in school districts to combat Polio.
I did not care for the description of various experiments and how they reproduced fish on a farm !
The use of Silver,Grass, Bighead Carp goverment research from the U.S.A. and around the world for various forms of biological control...Good descriptive writing last chapter is dedicated to references used in each chapter of this book..
Nicely Produced book the author has a sense of humor ! Thanks for the ARC copy from ECW Press
Profile Image for Nikki.
1,730 reviews66 followers
Want to read
January 9, 2019
Disclosure: ARC received from Netgalley & publisher in exchange for an honest review. (They may regret this.) Any and all quotes were taken from an advanced edition subject to change in the final edition.
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews

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