Will Asian carp turn up in fishing expedition near Lake Michigan?
Federal officials start the four-day expedition Monday. Its aim is to determine whether the Asian carp has infiltrated water locks that are designed to keep the species out of Lake Michigan.
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Federal officials, including Mr. Goss, continue to insist that the DNA evidence does not conclusively show that the Asian carp is close enough to be a threat. They say that sampling may have involved dead fish or water that was transported in from another region. Before the June discoveries, they say, eight monitoring trips since March had yielded evidence of 4,500 fish in the water – none Asian carp.Skip to next paragraph
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But critics from states that neighbor Illinois say the DNA evidence is enough to show a systemic problem, which they say will only grow worse with time. Ongoing legal challenges keep surfacing with the same aim: permanent closure of the two shipping locks in the Chicago River and Calumet-Sag Channel to prevent the Asian carp from potentially destroying what the states say is a $7 billion annual recreational and commercial fishing industry.
The Obama administration, they say, has been too slow to address the issue and is siding with the barging industry, which is against the lock closures.
Michigan is currently leading a federal lawsuit, with support from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In 2010, as part of the suit, the US Supreme Court and a US district judge denied requests to immediately close the locks. Other parts of the lawsuit are now working their way through the courts.
“We often wonder after a tragedy if there had been any warning signs that we missed. We now have 85 warning signs that Asian carp are an impending tragedy for the Great Lakes,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in a statement late last week. “We don’t need any more studies. We need to act.”
Environmentalist groups such as the Alliance for the Great Lakes also say that the DNA testing is enough to show a problem.
“The nail-biter is hoping that this intensive monitoring effort does not turn anything up. That would mean they’re most likely there in very low numbers, [but] the more you find, the more critical the situation is for Lake Michigan,” Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, told the Associated Press.
The Asian carp is a bottom-feeder fish that was introduced to catfish farms in Mississippi and Arkansas in the 1970s to help control algae growth. The fish is presumed to have traveled to Chicago through the Mississippi River.