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Momentous Battle to Save the Great Lakes is On
A momentous battle to save the Great Lakes from one of the worst invasive species imaginable is being waged in an artificial canal south of Chicago.
The effort to beat back Asian carp before the menacing fish conquer the Great Lakes is sort of an ecological equivalent of the 1815 battle of Waterloo, when Europe’s defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte changed the course of history.
Government agencies are killing Asian carp in a six-mile stretch of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a glorified sewer that connects Lake Michigan to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Scientists fear two species of Asian carp — the bighead and silver carp — have breached a $9 million electric barrier in the canal that was designed to keep the invaders out of Lake Michigan.
Researchers recently collected 32 DNA samples of Asian carp between the fish barrier and Lake Michigan; some of those samples were collected just six miles from Lake Michigan. In other words, Asian carp — which breed like mosquitoes, can grow to 100 pounds, hog the food that fish need and rocket out of the water when agitated by boat motors — are on the brink of laying siege to the Great Lakes.
The use of rotenone to kill Asian carp in the shipping canal is a last-ditch effort to keep these beasts out of the Great Lakes. It’s certainly not a long-term solution.
The National Wildlife Federation and other conservation groups are urging government agencies to take immediate, necessary measures — such as closing the navigational locks that provide an entry point for the fish and physically separating Lake Michigan from the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal —to keep Asian carp out of the lakes.
The outcome of this historic conflict with Asian carp will affect the health of America’s freshwater seas for the foreseeable future.
The government agencies entrusted with protecting the Great Lakes must make sure the Asian carp meets its Waterloo in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Failure is not an option.