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Seize opportunity to net results in reining in deadly Asian carp

Published: Wed, August 4, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

Stemming the flow of the mon- strous Asian carp into the Great Lakes has surfaced as a classic tug-of-war between environmental and economic interests in the Midwest and the nation.

Environmentalists argue that if Asian carp are allowed to multiply and infest the Great Lakes, a worst-case scenario would produce horrific harm to the vital health, economic and recreational assets of the waterways, including those of nearby Lake Erie.

Chicago-area economic and political officials argue that closing its locks into Lake Michigan would cost its local economy $4.7 billion over 20 years. But an increasingly large chorus is calling for closure after commercial fishermen recently landed a 3-foot-long, 20-pound adolescent Asian carp in Lake Calumet on Chicago’s South Side, about six miles from a lock into Lake Michigan.

As the debacle enters a new forum this month — a federal courtroom in northern Illinois — we maintain our steadfast support for action to prevent or lessen the potential for a calamity of epic proportions to a mainstay of our region’s ecosystem and economic livelihood.

Asian carp are extremely destructive. They weigh more than 100 pounds, consume large amounts of food and reproduce rapidly. They pose a real threat to native fish by reducing populations of native plants, a staple for the native fish.

Asian carp also learn to jump up to 10 feet out of the water when disturbed by the sound of watercraft, posing a public-safety threat to boaters and water skiers.

Unfortunately, several initiatives to rein in the carp thus far have been deep-sixed.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to intervene on behalf of Ohio and most other Great Lakes states in their suit to force action by recalcitrant Illinois and Chicago-area authorities. The Obama administration gave a polite but patronizing snub to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s recent demand for an emergency summit on the Asian-carp threat.


Fortunately, viable opportunities in two arenas remain for those seeking to halt the threat.

On the legislative front, action is expected soon, perhaps next week, on a bill co-sponsored by Northeast Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette that requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an 18-month feasibility study on how to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. That effort has gained bipartisan support, as Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and George V. Voinovich are co-sponsoring a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

On the judicial front, five state attorneys general — including Richard Cordray of Ohio — filed a suit in federal court in Northern Illinois in late July demanding tougher action by Chicago and Illinois to prevent Asian carp from overrunning the Great Lakes and destroying their fishing industry.

“The introduction of Asian carp into Lake Michigan will irreversibly damage this important resource. The time for action is now,” wrote Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

Van Hollen is absolutely on target. The longer the delay to deal seriously with Asian carp’s potential for disaster, the greater the likelihood for irreversible damage to all of our Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water in the world.


1BuckeyeBacker22(1 comment)posted 5 years, 11 months ago

There is no doubt that Asian carp pose a serious threat to the ecosystem in the Great Lakes, however, what this article does not mention is that there are a variety of options to hold the carp back that do not include shutting down the locks or separating waterways. There are already electric barriers in place that are successfully holding the carp back, and scientists agree that acoustic deterrents, strobe lights, and air bubble curtains are options as well. Closing the locks is not the only option here, and politicians should not approach the issue like it is the only course of action.

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2NetBuddy(7 comments)posted 5 years, 11 months ago

Unfortunately, all these politicians are battling the Asian Carp on the wrong front.

After nearly 10 months of extensive electro-fishing, netting, and poisoning in Chicago's waterways only one Asian Carp has been found above the electric barriers. That is good news and hardly a cause for panic and is certainly evidence that the electric barriers in Chicago are working.

In addition, a published in depth independent scientific study commissioned by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has concluded that Asian Carp cannot survive or colonize in the open waters of the Great Lakes due to insufficient plankton for food:


The study does indicate that there are some isolated wetlands in Lake Erie that MAY have sufficient plankton to support Asian Carp, however, the study also concludes that the Carp could not survive a migration from Chicago to Lake Erie.

It is also known that the Carp cannot reproduce in the Great Lakes and separating Chicago's waterways isn't an effective solution. In fact, more Asian Carp have been found in lakes in Illinois already separated from the waterways than have been found in the waterways above the electric barrier. In addition, all the 18 month study is going to prove is that ecological separation will prove to be too costly and impractical to implement. It will also result in toxic surface water runoff from Chicago polluting Lake Michigan.

That brings us to the real Asian Carp threat - the Maumee River. Due to flooding concerns in Fort Wayne, Indiana will install only a chain link fence between the Maumee and Wabash River tributaries containing a breeding population of Asian Carp. That chain link fence isn't going to stop a Carp migration into the Maumee and down the river to Toledo and Lake Erie.

Governor Strickland, AG Cordray, Rep. LaTourette and Senators Brown and Voinovich are all just Carp Grandstanding. Same goes for AG Van Hollen in Wisconsin. The truth is that there is no Asian Carp threat from Chicago's waterways but there is a significant threat from the Maumee River. Yet these politicians, and particularly those from Ohio, are ignoring the Maumee threat.

Why, because they don't have a solution that fits their political agenda and, for that reason alone, they will compromise Lake Erie's fisheries!

It will only be a matter of time before Asian Carp in the Maumee are waving their flippers as they pass Toledo on their way to those wetlands in Lake Erie. The longer OHIO delays to deal seriously with this potential disaster, the greater the likelihood for damage to Lake Erie.

Illinois is handling their Carp issue just fine while Ohio is doing nothing except backing frivolous law suits and studies going nowhere.

So, let's hear from Strickland, Cordray, and the rest - what's your plan in OHIO to save the Great Lakes?

Great Lakes Fisherman

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3MJBCGA78(1 comment)posted 5 years, 11 months ago

Please note that the study that is cited above goes on to say that: "Productive embayments and wetlands are more likely to support Asian carp growth, and resource managers should focus monitoring and preventative efforts there." Hill and Pegg are not saying that Asian Carp can't survive in the Great Lakes, they are saying that there is not enough food in part of the the Great Lakes, the open waters, to support them. There is plenty of food in nearshore areas of the Great Lakes and you can bet that Asian carp will thrive in those areas. These productive areas are also where the bulk of the native fish live and they will not do well with Asian Carp competing for food. I encourage everyone to read theses studies fully and visit www.AsianCarp.org for the straight scoop on these fish.

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4McTide(10 comments)posted 5 years, 11 months ago

We need to trust the govt on this one. Anyone looking to buy a house in La. Got one on the backside of an Army Corps levee.

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5Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 11 months ago

No need to worry as they are an excellent source of protein . A whole new industry could evolve harvesting these behemoths to feed the masses in our cities . The billion plus people in China can attest to their delicacy .

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6jimmiller5417(3 comments)posted 5 years, 11 months ago

Open waters: Studies I have read state that there are sufficiently strong currents in the open Great Lakes to support spawning.

Lack of plankton. The supposed lack of plankton in the open waters is probably a false negative. Proof is that other filter feeders -- mussels and clams -- do very well in the Great Lakes.

Inshore. No doubt that the carp will do well feeding around the inshore locations.

Upstream. Carp need a fast running stream into which to lay their eggs and will migrate upstream into all of the rivers and their tributaries flowing into the Great Lakes.

Bell rung. Once the bell has been rung, it cannot be unrung. Act now before it is too late.

Fish kill. The fish kill proves that native fish easily succumb to Rotenone. What substantial proof is there that Rotenone has the same effect on carp. I've seen no such study.

Non-floaters. Carp have a very imperfect swim bladder and their gut would not contain any build-up of gas. Thus, the dead carp probably sink to the bottom. What study produces proof that all dead carp float? I've seen no such study.

The result of the experiments is a false negative. The absence of floating dead carp proves nothing. The presence of even one live carp is a true positive which outweighs the false negative. Why have we not heard this analysis from the academic community? Are they too afraid of losing some funding if they speak out?

Finally, what is it about politicians that compels them to talk and not listen?

Jim Miller

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7jimmiller5417(3 comments)posted 5 years, 11 months ago

Gov. Quinn's solution: "If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em."

Illinois has launch a half-hearted effort to get carp fishmen catching more Asian carp and have offered loans to bulk-up the fish processing facilities. Good for Illinois, but irrelevant to the basin-wide solution of depopulation of Asian carp in the rivers and lakes of the Mississippi River Basin.

Jim Miller

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