Asian carp: the time for half measures is past

As usual with this monster fish, the news out of this weekend is mixed.

The good: After days of electroshocking and fishing in the Calumet Sag Channel (that’s past the electric fence and only a few miles from Lake Michigan), nobody’s found an Asian or silver carp. And only one Asian carp was found in the stretch of the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal that was poisoned (where the fence is between the carp and Lake Michigan).

The bad: The government agencies pretty much admit that there probably are Asian carp in the Cal Sag channel because there were so many positive DNA hits in that stretch of the canal system.

Lockport Lock on Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal | Photo: IL EPA

Lockport Lock on Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal | Photo: Illinois EPA

The ugly: Right now there’s an open path from the Asian carp DNA in the channel directly to Lake Michigan. The only possible remaining barrier is navigation locks … which remain open.

The baffling: Why are the navigation locks still open? What are the agencies – in this case, the Army Corps of Engineers – waiting for? As long as the Corps doesn’t close the locks, the Great Lakes have no remaining protection from whatever Asian carp are in the Cal Sag channel. Are the agencies betting that the there are no live fish where the DNA tests say they are? If so, they’re betting against the judgment of their own scientists, who believe that the tests indicate the presence of live fish. That’s a bad bet and the Great Lakes will be the loser.

The state of Michigan has announced it will file legal action to close the navigational locks and NWF (see those announcements at www.nwf.org/asiancarp) and several other Great Lakes organizations also are looking at litigation.  I sure hope that’s not necessary.

Stay tuned; this picture is sure to change, and change rapidly.

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