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Trib's Asian Carp Editorial Bombs

By JoshMogerman in News on Dec 11, 2010 8:00PM

Carp-et Bomb [via Flickr by Outside Perspectives]
Newspapers throughout the Great Lakes region have let out a primal scream over the recent Asian carp federal court decision. Editorial after editorial mourns the seeming inability to aggressively address the problem…except for the Trib's oddly juvenile entry, which seems to not only misunderstand the judge’s decision, but also the nature of the threat to Lake Michigan.

While the judge took issue with the states’ effort to close Chicago’s locks as a barrier to the fishes’ advance (something even local environmentalists agreed would not work) and questioned how many of the fish are getting past the barrier, the ruling did not belittle the potential problem. Yet, the Trib editorial’s thunderous opening implies that everyone else is crazy and we are in the clear:

It's official: The dreaded Asian carp aren't an imminent threat to the Great Lakes, despite the hallucinatory anxieties of Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The editorial gets onto more solid ground as it focuses on the suit itself, but even with some positive notes at the end, we cannot get past their tone and seeming diminishment of the serious threat to Lake Michigan. While the judge noted that the fish do not seem to be getting past the Army Corps of Engineers’ electric barrier in massive numbers---it is clear that they are getting past. The Corps’ most recent eDNA testing results show, once again, Asian carp in new places past the fish fence. One of the maddening things about the eDNA tests and the elusive nature of these fish is that we simply have no idea how many of the critters are swimming unabated to the Lake. But we do know that with invasive species, it is best not to wait until they are readily evident. At that point it is too late, as Notre Dame and Nature Conservancy researcher Lindsay Chadderton told the Washington Post:

It seems to me we are in denial. By the time we understand the severity of the problem, it's too late. Prevention is the only cost-effective way of dealing with this.

Look out to the Brookfield Zoo, where plenty of residents are refugees from environments overwhelmed by invasive species. For example, the zoo is one of the only places on Earth where you can see Micronesian kingfishers, a squat bird that can no longer be found on their home island of Guam. A small population of these kingfishers exists only in a few zoos now, after brown tree snakes were accidentally introduced to the island in World War II where they eventually ate most of the unique native bird species. Recently, the federal government has been parachuting poisoned mice from helicopters into Guam’s forests as they continue to try to deal with the problem a half century later (video below!).

We would like to avoid the spectacle and cost of carp-et bombing Lake Michigan with whatever dead critter you would use to kill off the fiendish fishies. So let’s get this thing done. A helpful first step would be for the Trib to knock off the nose thumbing and start pushing for something a bit more constructive.