The Cost of Aquatic Invasive Species

Currently, there are 10 invasive species in the Mississippi River that could use the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) to invade the Great Lakes. Conversely, there are 29 species in the Great Lakes that could use the CAWS to enter the Mississippi basin.

This is one of the greatest threats to the health of the entire Great Lakes region. They do extensive damage not only to native fish and wildlife populations, but to local economies as well. A 2012 report by Anderson Economic Group commissioned by The Nature Conservancy revealed that it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to control aquatic invasive species. Industries like sport and commercial fishing, water treatment, power generation and tourism are all affected by this threat.

While there are some preventative measures in place, we need to do more. The electric barriers currently in place to stop Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan only work one way; they don’t stop Lake Michigan species from moving into the Mississippi River. Furthermore, they do not prevent the passage of invertebrates or aquatic plants—two other types of aquatic invasive species that can be just as harmful as zebra mussels, round goby and Asian carp.

The introduction of new aquatic invasive species poses enormous economic risks to the Great Lakes and the states downstream. Understanding the magnitude of this threat, continuing stakeholder dialogue and collaborating on an interim solution that will prevent the two-way movement of invasive species are the first steps towards the bold thinking we’ll need to solve it.

Learn how The Nature Conservancy is working to battle aquatic invasive species at


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