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Great Lakes Article:

Editorial: Asian carp ban will protect Great Lakes
Sheboygan Press
Published November 7, 2005

Years ago, operators of fish farms in the South brought in black Asian carp to control snails and other parasites on their farms.

But some of the fish have escaped the fish farms and made their way up the Mississippi River. They are literally at the door to the Great Lakes, where the fear is that the fish would devastate the lakes' ecosystems.

Three years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed banning the importation of black Asian carp, for this reason among others.

However, the federal agency hasn't acted on its proposal and the Great Lakes remain threatened. The only thing standing between the fish which can grow up to 100 pounds or larger is an electronic fence near Chicago that is designed to deliver a non-lethal jolt of electricity, thereby preventing the from getting into Lake Michigan.

But funding for a modernized and improved barrier has had a tough time getting through Congress.

Rep. Mark Green, a Republican from Wisconsin, has proposed legislation that would ban the import of black Asian Carp.

He was not overstating the potential harm when he said, "The Asian carp could devastate the Great Lakes' multi-billion dollar fishing industry and Wisconsin's fishing tradition.

"We have an obligation to stop this onslaught while we can."

Green and Great Lakes lawmakers took the Bush administration to task last week for not acting on the import ban. What they got in return was a call for more study.

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 of a ban on southern fish farmers.

But the federal agency had three years to study the problem from the time it raised the possibility of a ban in 2002, and Wilson told the Congressmen that the agency couldn't move any faster.

But three years, even in the federal bureaucracy, is a long time.

There is one idea out there that would only allow the importing of sterile carp, thus preventing the population from growing. But that does nothing to address the problem of fish escaping into the Mississippi.

There is economic benefit to the fish farmers by being able to control parasites.

But there also is the multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industry in the Great Lakes that must be protected.

Wilson and others in the Fish and Wildlife Service had few answers to satisfy Great Lakes lawmakers last week, apparently leaving the issue unresolved.

Asian carp is among several invasive species that pose a threat to the Great Lakes fishery, but this is one that can be easily controlled.

Green and other congressmen from Wisconsin and the Great Lakes states must push hard for the ban on importing them.

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