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Great Lakes Article:

Environment requires everyone's attention
The issue: Invasive species

Northwest Indiana Times

Our opinion: Education and other measures are important to protect the environment from them.

As if there weren't enough things to worry about, here's one more: Asian carp are moving this way, devouring everything in their path.

This isn't the plot of some science fiction movie. This is reality.

The Indiana Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan presented to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week notes that while the largest bighead carp reported from Indiana waters was 53.5 pounds, they are known to reach 90 pounds elsewhere in the United States. Silver carp can grow to three feet long and weigh 60 pounds.

"In some of the big pools along the Mississippi River, Asian carps have multiplied so quickly that in less than a decade, they make up 90 percent or more of the fish life," Indiana's plan says.

The fish were introduced to the United States for use at fish farms, where they consumed excess aquatic vegetation. Flooding along the Mississippi allowed some of them to escape.

Their depletion of food for other species means that walleye and other desirable fish might die off, threatening commercial and sport fishing.

Indiana's new plan, if approved, would make the state eligible for $100,000 in federal funding to address invasive species that threaten native plants and animals. Already, an estimated $3 million or more is being spent by Indiana and other sources on this problem.

A temporary electrical barrier has been erected along the bottom of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, before it connects to the Grand Calumet River. The aim is to keep invasive species away while allowing ships to continue to use the waterway.

"We know the Great Lakes will be very receptive to these fish," said Mike Conklin, chief of fisheries in Illinois. "If they get in there, the ball game's over for that $4.5 billion fishery."

Education is one necessary approach to fight this problem. Remember the alligators discovered at the Valparaiso Country Club this summer? They didn't hitchhike from Florida. Some careless person set them free.

Likewise, fish bought for tanks but released in the wild can carry diseases that jeopardize native species. Aquarium owners need to be taught the consequences of being irresponsible.

In addition, fishermen are asked to report any unusual fish they find. Measure its length, take a close-up photo and freeze it, then report the find to a district fisheries biologist.

Preserving the environment takes everyone's assistance.

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