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article imageFive US states sue federal government over Asian carp invasion

By Lynn Herrmann     Jul 20, 2010 in Environment
Five US states have sued Chicago’s water authority and the federal government in an effort to stop an invasion of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.
A lawsuit filed in the US District Court in Illinois by Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Ohio was prompted after the discovery in June of a 20 pound Asian carp on the wrong side of electronic barriers designed to inhibit their invasion of the Great Lakes.
Three previous requests for court action by the five states have been rejected by the US Supreme Court. The most recent lawsuit seeks to close Chicago shipping gates and locks which might be providing access to Lake Michigan for the invasive fish and asks for a study to be carried out on the viability of separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River, according to a BBC report.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican running for governor, said: "President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers have failed to fight Asian carp aggressively. Asian Carp will kill jobs and ruin our way of life."
The Chicago Waterway System, an artificial connection, joins the Great Lakes to the Illinois River, which in turn connects to the Mississippi River. The waterway system is the pathway Asian carp use for entering the Great Lakes.
At issue are the Bighead Carp and Silver Carp. The carp have proliferated in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and can grow to a weight of 100 pounds. Boaters report collisions and injuries due to run-ins with the large fish.
Silver carp are capable of jumping from the water and have become increasingly connected to boating accidents. Although a thorough investigation has yet to be concluded, the connection between the fish and boaters seems to be based on a startle factor determined by boat speed and engine noise.
In one report, a woman boater was struck in the face when a Silver carp jumped out of the water. The impact knocked her from the boat into the water, unconscious. She revived, found herself bleeding, and fell unconscious a second time. A passing boater rescued her. Her injuries included a concussion, broken nose, broken foot, black eye, and an injured back.
The fish were originally imported into the southern US as a means of cleaning aquaculture facilities and as a source of fresh fish for fish markets. The carp escaped into the wild in the 1980’s and have been traveling northward ever since.
Their diet of plankton, algae and other microscopic organisms is in direct competition with native fishes in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The Asian carp is capable of eating 5-20 % of its body weight each day
They have overwhelmed the Mississippi and Illinois River systems and in some areas comprise more than 95 percent of the biomass.
Due to the prolific nature of the Asian carp, and the fact they have no natural predators, scientist believe the fish may overrun native species such as salmon inhabiting freshwater lakes on the US-Canada border.
The five states have asked the US Army Corps of Engineers to use nets for stopping the carp from entering into Lake Michigan.
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