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Great Lakes Article:

Ban is sought for voracious carp species
Barrier also a possibility for protecting the lakes
By Tom Henry
The Toledo Blade

A move is afoot to ban importation of the potentially devastating Asian carp - an effort that one official concedes is the bureaucratic equivalent of closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out.

But, for as much as they are now forced to play catch-up, officials need to cover all angles and keep from putting all their faith in an electric barrier near Chicago, Michael J. Donahue, president and chief operating officer of the Great Lakes Commission, said.

"We need to have a campaign on many fronts," Mr. Donahue said, referring to four species of exotic carp collectively viewed as one of the greatest biological threats ever to face the lake system’s coveted fishery.

The commission, based in Ann Arbor, advises the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces on Great Lakes policy.

The region’s commercial and sport-fishing industries have a combined value of $4.7 billion. Sport fishing is a hub of northern Ohio’s tourism-based economy.

In a recent letter, Mr. Donahue requested the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service add bighead carp, black carp, grass carp, and silver carp to the agency’s list of so-called "injurious species" under the federal Lacey Act, a law which the federal government can use to ban importation and interstate trade. Decisions about intrastate trade - that confined within a state’s borders - are left to states themselves.

All four species are generally known as Asian carp because of the continent where they originate.

All are huge fish with huge appetites, capable of wiping out plants and other food sources for native Great Lakes fish.

Silver carp have additional shock value: They’re sensitive to water vibrations caused by motorboats. In a split second, they can leap into the air. With no advance notice, fishermen can find themselves dodging an 85-pound fleshy projectile.

Asian carp were first imported by some Arkansas fish hatcheries 20 years ago to eat pond scum. The Mississippi River floods of 1993 allowed many to escape confinement.

Those carp have been swimming upstream along the Mississippi, poised to enter Lake Michigan via connecting waterways that include the 103-year-old Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the 81-year-old Calumet-Sag Channel, plus the Des Plain River and the Illinois River.

Even though officials have known of their destructive capability, little has been done until now to ban importation. The immediate focus has been securing money from Congress to enhance an experimental barrier the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built near Lockport, Ill.

The barrier is designed to repel Asian carp and other potentially invasive species, but officials have said it may only be effective with grown fish. Immature fish and microscopic larvae can, at times, slip through.

That’s one reason why a ban is warranted, even if it appears the discussion is coming late. "In a way, it’s shutting the door after the horse is out of the barn," Mr. Donahue conceded.

He said the Chicago-area barrier should not be viewed as the sole defense.

Michigan has enacted a ban on Asian carp possession within its borders. Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states that are considering similar measures, he said.

Kari Duncan, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist in Arlington, Va., said agency officials are well aware of the region’s desire for a ban on importation and interstate trade under the Lacey Act, as well as the various state efforts to ban intrastate trade and possession within their individual borders.

A decision on the federal law’s applicability will be left up to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Ms. Duncan said.

Canada is looking into similar measures.

"They’re doing their own review, and we’re doing ours. Both governments are aware that we are conducting an evaluation," she said.

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