Five States File Suit to Stop Asian Carp Invasion

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Five Great Lakes states have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, asking that the court order Chicago-area shipping locks to be closed in an effort to halt an influx of Asian carp.

Asian carp are considered an invasive species because of the competition they pose to native species for food and habitat. According to some experts, the carp—which eat voraciously and breed quickly—could wipe out the multi-million dollar fishing industry in states that border the Great Lakes.

In 2002, shortly after the threat was first detected, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed an electric fish barrier between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River drainage basins, and while the barrier initially proved effective, spurring the construction of a second, the carp have since breached the waters of Lake Michigan. Asian carp DNA, as well as a 19-pound carp, have been found in the lake.

“The threat of Asian carp to the Great Lakes is imminent, and if not stopped, will have a devastating impact on the $10 billion fishing and tourism industries as well as the existing habitat,” said Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, speaking to a boating club in Cleveland.

The lawsuit pits those who are concerned about the economic and environmental impact of the carp against advocates for the tourism industry, who feel that closing the shipping locks will be more detrimental to the economic outlook of the area, and who agree with Illinois Chamber of Commerce representative Jim Farrell, who says that the carp problem is “under control.”

The states bringing the suit are Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. In addition to temporarily cloing the locks in the Calumet-Sag Channel and the Chicago River, the plaintiffs are requesting the use of nets, physical barriers and toxins to kill the fish, in order to control the movement of the invasive fish species.

The Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a counter-suit with the U.S. Supreme Court, and both the American Waterways Operators and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce have also filed affidavits, contending that closing the passages between waterways would lead to the disruption of cargo shipments and, ultimately, to a loss of jobs. Illinois says that $70 million in revenue could be lost.

It is estimated that it will take over $30 million to prevent the carp from gaining access to the Great Lakes. Cordray and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland have asked the federal government to hold an emergency summit to discuss the carp problem.

 

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