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Fight Continues Against Asian Carp
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Ohio’s waterways face what natural resource officials call an increasing threat: The Asian Carp.
Right now, the fish are moving up-river towards the Great Lakes.
They were first brought here in the 1970s to take care of the algae problem in southern catfish farms. But the invasive species broke out of those farms with the help of flooding and now pose a great ecological threat.
Why? Because Asian carp like to eat. A lot.
They eat eggs, plankton, and a number of other things that native fish need to survive. They also rapidly multiply and easily out-reproduce other species.
â€œAnd weâ€™re just very concerned that if they were to get into the Great Lakes that they could damage the ecosystem and potentially decimate the native population of fish and all the economic benefits and other environmental benefits provided by those native fish populations.,” says Matt Doss from the Great Lakes Commission. The group collaborates with other organizations and states to secure and protect the Great Lakes.
Itâ€™s important to note that zero Asian carp have been found in the Great Lakes yet. So the commissionâ€™s main tactic in their fight against Asian carp is to defend all pathways to the Great Lakes.
By far the biggest and highest risk pathway for carp getting into the Great Lakes is the Chicago-area waterway system and this is an artificial connection between the Mississippi River watershed and the Great Lakes.
If the Asian carp can infiltrate Lake Michigan through this waterway system, Doss says it is very likely the invasive species will spread to all the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie.
Thatâ€™s why Doss says itâ€™s vital to come up with a long-term solution to protecting this border: Hydrologic separation.
That is to permanently stop the free flow of water between the two watersheds to provide a permanent separation between those watersheds to keep these carp from getting into the Great Lakes.
But the plan is controversial. The Chicago-area depends on the waterway system for a number of servicesâ€¦ including water treatment. The commission is working to ease concerns. Doss says the commission has found a way to cut off the waterway without drastically impacting those services.
And he says doing so is better than the alternative.
Asian Carp have become well-known for jumping out of rivers as boat approach. Researchers say the fish mistake boat motor vibrations for predators and jump with fright.
Doss says jumpy fish isnâ€™t just a nuisance but a serious safety concern with fish weighing between 20 to 40 pounds.
â€œSo you so this footage of just hundreds and hundreds of fish rapidly and violently jumping out of the water and in parts of the Mississippi and Illinois riversâ€”this is so common they jump into boatsâ€”they hit boaters who are moving down the waterway,” says Doss.
There are reports that flying Asian carp have caused black eyes and broken jaws.
As of now, the Great Lakes Commission and several other public and private entities, including the state of Ohio, are continually evaluating the situation to determine the best way to protect their waterways from this invasive fish.