Environmental Emergency: Asian Carp Breach Barrier To Great Lakes

Millions have been spent in recent years installing electronic barriers to keep giant Asian carp from moving through a canal connecting the Mississippi River with Lake Michigan and thus entering the Great Lakes ecosystem, with potentially disastrous consequences. Now, the worst fears of area environmentalists and sport anglers appear to have come true: The carp have breached the barrier, according to the latest DNA samples. Should they reach Lake Michigan, the enormous invaders could potentially decimate sportfish populations in the Great Lakes, and many are now calling for tough action to prevent an ecological disaster.

_Asian carp may have breached an electronic barrier designed to prevent the giant invaders from upsetting the ecosystem in the Great Lakes and jeopardizing a $7 billion sport fishery, officials said Friday.
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_Scientists recently collected 32 DNA samples of Asian carp between the barrier and Lake Michigan in waterways south of Chicago. . . .
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_If the feared bighead and silver carp have got through the $9 million barrier, the only remaining obstacle between the carp and Lake Michigan is a navigational lock on the Calumet River. . . .
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_A worst-case scenario envisions [the monstrous fish] spreading "like a cancer cell," [said Cameron Davis, senior Great Lakes adviser to Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency], eventually dominating a fishery already damaged by zebra mussels, sea lamprey and other exotic pests. . . .
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_Officials plan then to treat a 6-mile section of the canal with a fish toxin called rotenone to prevent Asian carp from advancing.
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_Environmental groups called for tougher action, including closure of all Illinois gateways and locks leading to Lake Michigan. That would draw opposition from barge companies that haul cargo on the canal.
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_"If we don't close the locks, we are waving the white flag and allowing one of the greatest ecological tragedies to occur," said Jennifer Nalbone of Great Lakes United.
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_Even if the carp reach the lake, it might be possible to limit their spread with methods such as sterilization.
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"We should not assume that all is lost," [invasive species expert David] Lodge said.

On the other hand, should we wait until all is lost?