The Great Lakes' Asian Carp Problem Draws Near

[image-1]Concerning news out of the Great Lakes has become fairly routine, what with a soaring record of mismanagement already settling in across the region. The latest headline takes us to Chicago, where a live Asian carp has been caught about nine miles away from Lake Michigan, below the T.J. O'Brien Lock and Dam.

This is troubling, because it confirms that the large, feisty fish is capable of breaking through a network of electric barriers meant to keep the species from swimming into the Great Lakes. Asian carp have already wreaked havoc on the Mississippi River system, and it's eye-opening to consider what they could do to the Great Lakes, where, as the Chicago Tribune lays it out, "scientists say they could compete with native species, unravel aquatic food chains and devastate the region's $7 billion fishing industry."

“This news is deeply troubling and the threat of Asian carp has long been a concern of this Task Force and experts across the Great Lakes,” said the co-chairs of the House Great Lakes Task Force, which includes U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur. “This is further evidence that action must be taken to protect our Great Lakes from this grievous threat. We urge this Administration to release the Brandon Road Lock and Dam Study as required by the recently introduced Stop Asian Carp Now Act, so we can move forward to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes before it is too late.”

See, under President Donald Trump, implementation of the Asian carp containment plan has been delayed indefinitely. It's being variously "evaluated" by government and non-government organizations, the administration has said, not unlike a whole spectrum of environmental programs these days.

But observers point out that Asian carp aren't known for dilly-dallying. They raise hell on their food-chain competitors and leap 10 feet out of the water at velocities that have seriously injured humans. (Imagine someone throwing a bowling ball at your face.) Today's news is reigniting calls to get things moving on this Asian carp situation.

A 2016 study underscored the reality that the fish could absolutely overtake our own little Lake Erie. In many ways, the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding has been a core part of the solution staving off an invasion so far. (Trump's administration doesn't much care for all that GLRI funding, either.)

From the Washington Post last year:

Asian carp, which grow quickly and can eat up to 20 percent of their body weight each day, could come to make up 34 percent of the total fish weight in the lake, making them the most abundant fish in terms of biomass.

“It’s very sobering,” Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, told the Associated Press. “Lake Erie is one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world. It wouldn’t be as valuable by any stretch of the imagination if one out of every three pounds of fish were Asian carp.”

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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