Editorial: Asian Carp
The Sheboygan Press
Published in the Duluth News Tribune October 25th, 2004
Wisconsin's congressional delegation has succeeded in
getting federal money to help pay for a new barrier to
keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
That's good news for people who fish Lake Michigan for
fun and for a living.
Asian carp is one of the non-native Great Lakes invaders
that threaten the ecological balance of the lakes. These
eating machines can grow larger than 50 pounds, feeding
on algae and plankton - the base of the lake food chain.
This would affect the small fish, which are in turn, eaten
by the big fish.
Loss of the barrier would be devastating to people who
fish the Great Lakes, said Lyle Peschke of the Sheboygan
Area Great Lakes Sport Fishermen, a group dedicated to
conserve and improve the Great Lakes.
Asian carp "grow so big that they would effectively
wipe out sport and commercial fishing," he said.
Affected fish would include perch, chubs, whitefish,
lake trout and salmon.
Lake Michigan is a tremendous asset to Sheboygan County
and recreational, charter and commercial fishing is a
significant part of local tourism.
Charter fishing, a barometer of the popularity of Lake
Michigan fishing, is on the rebound after some down years.
The year 2003, the last year for which numbers are available,
showed 1,560 charter trips. The average number of fish
caught each trip was about eight, the highest average
in the last 10 years.
The carp, believed to have escaped years ago from fish
farms in the southern U.S., have made their way up the
Mississippi and are can get to the Great Lakes through
the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.
Two years ago, a temporary barrier - electrical cables
that shock, but don't kill, the carp and other fish -
was put up. The theory, which is working so far, is that
the fish turn back and don't enter the canal.
But the temporary barrier is failing and the Council
of Great Lakes Governors sought money from the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers to build a barrier that would last
at least 20 years. They thought they had it earlier this
year, but the Army Corps said it couldn't fund the project
to the level sought by the governors.
Helped by the efforts of Wisconsin's Congressional delegation,
a compromise finding plan has been worked out.
The Army Corps will come up with a total of about $3
million. The state of Illinois is kicking in $2 million
and the rest of the states bordering the Great Lakes states
will pay $575,000. Wisconsin's share is $68,000.
That's a small price to pay to keep alive an industry
estimated to generate about $4 billion annually in tourism
and recreation in the bordering Great Lakes states.
The battle against Asian carp should be fought as hard
as the one against the sea lamprey, which threatened the
Great Lakes fishery in the 1960s.
Coordinated efforts - and millions of dollars - went
into the sea lamprey control program. The Great Lakes
Fishery Commission, a joint Great Lakes protection effort
between Canadian and U.S. governments, says the ongoing
control efforts have resulted in a 90 percent reduction
of sea lamprey populations in most areas, creating a healthy
environment for fish survival and spawning.