Monday, September 15, 2008

Army fights to keep Asian carp from Great Lakes

In an attempt to stop the spread of the Asian carp, an invasive species, into the waters of Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expanding an underwater electric barrier north of Joliet, Ill. "The system, whose projected total cost is $36.5 million, emits electrical currents to dissuade the carp — and all other fish — from making their way to the lake," writes Dan Barry of The New York Times. "The project’s name conveys its gravity: the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Aquatic Nuisance Species Dispersal Barrier." Or CSSCANSDB, huh? Times photo by Angel Franco shows carp jumping from the water, as they often do; fishermen are sometimes injured.

An 80-mile stretch of the Illinois River may now have the world's largest population of Asian carp. "In 2006, the researchers caught around 500 silver carp," writes Barry. "In 2007, around 10,000. So far this year, with only two-thirds of the sampling complete, they have caught nearly 80,000 silver carp that now compete in an eating contest with native fish for the river’s algae and zooplankton. The carp often win."

The Asian carp was introduced in the U.S. in the early 70's to eat algae in southern fish farms. Floods allowed the fish to escape from their controlled environment. Kevin Irons, a researcher who studies the Asian carp population in the Illinois, adds "Someday, perhaps, someone will develop a lemonade-from-lemons plan for these fish — a commercially viable way to use them as fertilizer, or to export them to China and other countries, where they are a common food source."(Read more)

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