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Great Lakes Article:

Lawmakers: Asian carp ban needed
Fish threatens Illinois River, Great Lakes ecosystems
By The Associated Press and Journal Star staff
Journal Star (pjstar.com, IL)
Published November 4, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Members of a House subcommittee pointedly asked a federal official Thursday why the Bush administration hasn't banned imports of Asian carp, an exotic fish species that threatens the Illinois River and Great Lakes' ecosystems.

"The Asian carp could devastate the Great Lakes' multibillion dollar fishing industry, and Wisconsin's fishing tradition," said Rep. Mark Green, a Wisconsin Republican who introduced legislation to ban the imports. "We have an obligation to stop this onslaught while we can."

But Everett Wilson, deputy assistant director for fisheries and habitat conservation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the agency must consider the economic impact that a ban would have on southern fish farmers, who imported the voracious fish from China to help them control parasites by eating snails.

The agency has not yet acted on a 2002 proposal to ban black carp, a species of Asian carp that southern fish farmers use.

"So this isn't a scientific process, it's a market process?" Green asked at a House Resources fisheries and oceans subcommittee hearing.

"It's a scientific process mixed with an economic process," Wilson answered.

The subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Wayne Gilchrist, R-Md., and other subcommittee members joined with Green in criticizing the Bush administration's lack of action on a ban.

Some carp have escaped the southern fish farms and made their way north along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and could soon reach the Great Lakes. An electric barrier south of Chicago, which gives the fish a non-lethal jolt, is designed to prevent them from entering Lake Michigan.

Asian carp, which often leap out of the water, can grow to more than 100 pounds.

As filter feeders, they're affecting the Illinois River food chain by eating plankton needed by native fish.

The silver species which leaps from the water makes boating dangerous when the large fish crash into boats, hitting people and damaging equipment.

They grow quickly, have no natural predators and won't bite a hook. One fish can produce 2.2 million eggs.

Some experts believe the electronic barrier installed to keep them out of the Great Lakes has come too late.

River expert Mark Beorkrem, former executive director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, said the carp's presence is just another part of "globalization of the environment."

Once a species appears, there's no way to get rid of it, he said. "It will fill a niche."

Asian carp can be caught in special nets and used as a commercial species for protein powder and food. But the Illinois River lacks processing plants and other infrastructure for that endeavor.


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