Waiting to Act Until Carp is Netted a Flawed Policy

Trying to net an Asian carp in the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal is proving as illusive as Osama Bin Laden in the caves of Torre Bora – still, that doesn’t mean we should lull ourselves into complacency and assume that the fish are not there. We have DNA evidence that proves that the fish are in the canal, past the barrier, and in the mouth of Lake Michigan. State and federal agencies need to do everything they can to stop the carp from taking hold in the Great Lakes. Waiting for a dead body to surface before we act is a tragically flawed policy. Here’s why:

“These are incredibly hard fish to catch when there are not many of them,” Duane Chapman, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, tells Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Experts contend that only 1 percent of the entire fish population can be expected to be harvested, and as Egan reports “only a handful of Asian carp are within that overall population, odds are it’s going to be darn hard to land an Asian carp.”

Put another way: If there are enough Asian carp past the barrier and in Lake Michigan to make netting one easy, we’re in serious trouble. There are no longer any excuses for delay. We have known for nearly two decades that the fish were making their way up the Mississippi River toward our fresh water fishtopia, but instead of acting quickly and decisively, we acted slowly. It took years to finally build an electric barrier to stop the movement of harmful species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River–it was originally intended to prevent the round goby from invading the Mississippi, though was not built in time. Then, the Army Corps refused to turn on the voltage to provide maximum security. Then, based on the realistic possibility that the fish had breached the electric barrier, the feds decided to use eDNA sampling to see if the Asian carp were present–and voila! there they were. Now the feds are hesitant.

We have clear, scientific evidence that the fish are present beyond the barrier and in the mouth of Lake Michigan. As Jennifer Nalbone, from Great Lakes United said recently on the issue: “If DNA evidence is good enough to put criminals in jail, DNA evidence should be good enough to pull out all the stops to protect the Great Lakes.” We need to focus as a region and nation on the long-term solution of separating the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins, we need state and federal agencies to act decisively to prevent the carp from taking hold in the Great Lakes.

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