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Aversive Condition

Program script for Tuesday, June 11, 2002
By Amber Rose Fonzen

An exotic fish is headed up the Mississippi River and could get into the Great Lakes.

People imported Asian carp into the United States to use them in fish farms to clean up algae. The hungry fish clear algae out of aquaculture tanks like vacuum cleaners. But about 10 years ago, the Asian carp got out of the fish farms and into the Mississippi River. It might have happened when the river banks overflowed into fish ponds. But whatever the cause, the fish are loose. People in the Mississippi River basin are trying to control them, but the carp keep multiplying and spreading. In fact, they're headed upstream and straight for the Great Lakes.

Jerry Rasmussen is a fisheries biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He's worried that the food chain in the Great Lakes cannot support the huge appetite of this foreign fish.

"The food supply is there, the temperature is right and if they can get in there through a waterway connection and an obvious waterway connection is the connecting channels in the Chicago area that connect the Great Lakes with the Illinois River . . . If there's anything I could do to keep them out I would do it and do it right away."

A ship canal in Chicago connects Lake Michigan to the Illinois River, and the river connects to the Mississippi. That gives the Asian carp a straight shot into the Great Lakes. Government officials have installed an electric barrier in the Chicago canal to shock the carp and turn them around. Rasmussen says other irritants might be added to it for maximum carp aversion.

"They don't like noise. They don't like bubbles. So maybe a combination of noise, bubbles and the right amount of electricity could stop them dead in their tracks."

Rasmussen says it might take more than that to stop the Asian carp -- even something as drastic as shutting down the Chicago Ship Canal.

"It's almost pay me now or pay me later. Either you put up the money now before the problem occurs or you end up treating the problem after it's already there along with all of the repercussions that come along with it."




Sources:

"Beware big fish: Asian carp are threat to lakes" in the Detroit Free Press, 11 April 2002

"Asian Carp Invasion of the Upper Mississippi River System", report from U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Handout from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in pdf format

This information is posted for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S. Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.

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