Strickland shows his support for Lake Erie

Regardless of your politics, it’s comforting for outdoors people to know Ohio’s governor would take the time to fish and express support for the future of Lake Erie and sportfishing.

Gov. Ted Strickland fished for a few hours Monday on Lake Erie. He and first lady Frances Strickland caught walleyes and enjoyed the break from the rigors back in their offices in Columbus.

Recreation aside, the governor’s interest in Lake Erie and other Ohio natural resources is something outdoor sports people should appreciate. When the fishing was done, Strickland spoke about the value of Lake Erie and the threat posed by the potential for invasion by Asian carp.

“Ohio’s future can never be separated from the future of Lake Erie, Ohio’s greatest natural resource,” Strickland said. “Lake Erie is a great example of how the conservation of our resources and the growth of our economy can be compatible goals.”

His comments were made during the annual Fish Ohio Day. Strickland and the first lady were aboard a flotilla of 15 charter vessels that boated 165 walleyes.

Ohio has 1.1 million anglers who spend $1.1 billion on fishing-related items and activities annually, according to numbers cited by Ohio Division of Natural Resources and attributed to the American Sportfishing Association. The Lake Erie sportfishing industry is reportedly valued at $480 million and responsible for 10,000 jobs.

Asian carp have been in the headlines in recent weeks, as a mature specimen was discovered in the Calumet River near Chicago. From there, it could easily swim into Lake Michigan. Fear is that a breeding population of Asian carp will gain a fin-hold in Lake Michigan and spread throughout the Great Lakes system.

Activists are encouraging sports fishers to contact their U.S. representatives and senators to encourage them to support efforts to minimize the potential for further spread of the invasive species.

Invaders such as Asian carp can quickly gain dominance over native species. Previous examples of invasive species that today are thriving in and around the Great Lakes include animals such as zebra mussels and round gobies and plants such as Eurasian milfoil.

Concern about the carp threat has reached the White House, where President Barack Obama is being challenged by Great Lakes region officials to step up federal efforts to stop the species’ spread.

The key, several groups say, is to “disconnect” the Mississippi River drainage from the Great Lakes system. Asian carp have become established in the Mississippi drainage, where, in addition to crowding out native species, they pose a serious threat to boaters.

The species is known to leap from the water when agitated or excited by boat noises. Boaters have been seriously injured because of collisions with the jumping carp.

Strickland recently wrote to Obama, calling for federal action: “The Great Lakes are on the brink of a great ecological and economic disaster that states in the region may never overcome.” He and others are seeking a permanent physical barrier on the Calumet River to prevent the carp from swimming into Lake Michigan.

Debate continues, and decisions are pending. But it’s good to know that Ohio’s governor is willing to speak on behalf of the health of our natural resources and the future of Lake Erie.

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