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Great Lakes Article:

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.

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