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Scientists: "Indisputable" Evidence of Invasive Carp Damage

July 5, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - As the voracious Asian carp works its way north into the Great Lakes by way of the Chicago shipping canal, at least ten invasive species from the Lakes may be headed south to the Mississippi River Basin. An international group of scientists says that the potential for damage to ecosystems, economies and recreation is indisputable.

The scientists, from the U.S. and Canada, agree that the best way to control the spread of invasive species from one water system to another is known as hydrological separation, physically separating bodies of water so they can't mix.

Biologist Jerry Rasmussen, who spent more than 30 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is now retired but working with the scientists on the carp problem, says the government needs to step up the pace to get it done.

"Congress can play an important role by mandating the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to expedite completion of its study evaluating how to build a physical barrier to separate these two watersheds. It's about protecting the long-term ecological health of two iconic ecosystems that together comprise half of the nation's waters."

Rasmussen says the electric barrier now used at the Chicago shipping canal is not the solution.

"Our analysis reaffirms that Asian carp pose a great risk to Great Lakes ecology and economy and should debunk any notion to the contrary. The task at hand needs to be not 'if' but 'how' to solve the problem, including a rigorous assessment of how to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin to prevent the further transfer of harmful species."

There are various other ideas on how to manage the carp population, including lowering oxygen levels in parts of the lake, using pheromones to attract and catch carp, and a commercial fishery, but Rasmussen says the carp is only part of the invasive species problem between the two watersheds.

John Goss, the environmental official named by the White House last year to lead federal efforts to control the carp, is to hold a meeting Thursday in Ohio about a multi-tiered strategy to control the spread of the fish into Lake Michigan.

The paper appears in the Journal of Great Lakes Research.

Amy Miller/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MI