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Study: Lake Erie a Comfortable Place for a Menacing Species

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January 23, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A menacing species of foreign fish could make itself right at home in Lake Erie, according to a new report. The study from the U.S. Geological Survey found that the Maumee, Sandusky, and Grand Rivers are hospitable environments for Asian carp, potentially allowing the invasive fish to establish a self-sustaining population in western Lake Erie.

Mark Smith, senior policy manager with the National Wildlife Federation, says it could devastate one of the most plentiful fisheries in the Great Lakes.

"Lake Erie is under severe stress right now from algae blooms to potential increased water withdrawals; you add in Asian carp that could potentially wipe out the native fish population, not only will it be an environmental impact, but impact the ecosystem in general."

Asian carp were imported to Arkansas fish farms in the 1960s and have since spread throughout the Mississippi River basin. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study on how to best keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes isn't expected to be completed before the end of 2015 at the earliest. The recently-introduced Stop Asian Carp Act of 2011, which is stalled in a congressional committee, would speed up the study and require it to be completed within 18 months.

Smith says the current timeline for completing the study is just too long. And without urgent action, he fears a biological disaster that could affect the millions of people who rely on the Great Lakes for recreation and their livelihoods.

"We've made a lot of strides over the past 20-30 years to clean up Lake Erie after it was declared dead; it's almost like we're going backwards now, and Asian carp could be that tipping point."

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, an estimated 450,000 people fish in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie every year, contributing $680 million to the state's economy.

The study is available at: www.sciencedirect.com

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH