Monday, December 07, 2009

The Gates of the Great Lakes

Have you read about Asian carp and the efforts to keep them out of the Great Lakes?

The fish are causing quite a stir in the maritime community. A boater in Indiana recently posted the following on Twitter, highlighting how serious a threat these fish may be: "Don't close off boating on to and from the Great Lakes. Look for alternative ways to keep the Asian Carp out!"

What is it about these little buggers? Why are they causing so much buzz?

First of all, the “little buggers” are not all that little. Almost every article about Asian carp states that they can grow to 4 feet long, and weigh 100 pounds, eating so much plankton that there is no food left for other fish. The new carp consume virtually everything, like the Borg, threatening entire civilizations (of fish). They’ve also been known to leap out of the water, lured (or annoyed) by the humming of a boat’s engine, and collide with a boat’s operator. Check out this picture of them jumping courtesy of the USFWS.

If these carp get into the Great Lakes, the region’s $7 billion-a-year commercial fishing industry will suffer. Recreational boating will suffer. To prevent the expected suffering, authorities have gone to great lengths. They have installed an electric fence and have poured 2,000 gallons of poison in canals leading to Lake Michigan, resulting in 200,000 lbs of dead fish. They have so far I.D.’d one victim in the fish kill as an Asian carp, with the rest being members of the species they were trying to save). The next drastic move under consideration is to shut down the locks, which will be a major annoyance to recreational boaters and a major financial burden to companies that rely on the water to ship goods through that region.

Other alternatives are being considered and stakeholders are taking up sides on this explosive issue, but time may be running out. What can be done to stop these invasive fish that we brought here 30 years ago?

Related stories and sources worth reading:
Washington Post: Fish kill called necessary to save the Great Lakes

Chicago Tribune: Asian carp worries fishermen

Indianapolis Star: Keeping the monsters away

Globe and Mail: Asian carp get past barrier, threatening Great Lakes

The Daily Boater: Warning: Flying Fish in FLA

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