They’ve tried just about everything to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, and still the carp continue their inexorable movement toward some of the largest fresh water bodies in the world. The carp were apparently — and stupidly — introduced into our ecosystem decades ago, when someone thought that their willingness to eat algae and waste products made them perfectly suited to help keep sewage lagoons in the South clean. The fish somehow escaped their captivity, as living beings typically do, made their way to the Mississippi River, and since then having been moving steadily northward despite man’s best efforts to stop them.
It reminds me of the old commercial about “ring around the collar.” The embarrassed, exhausted housewife pushes back locks of her hair as the announcer intones: “You’ve tried scrubbing them out! You’ve tried soaking them out!” With the Asian carp, they’ve tried establishing an electrical barrier to keep them from getting from the Mississippi River into the Great Lakes. When that apparently didn’t work — they found Asian carp DNA on the other side of the barrier — they poisoned miles of the potential entrance way in hopes of killing any hardy Asian carp that might have crossed the barrier. Somehow I doubt that has worked, either.
Why do people care? Because Asian carp are an invasive species, for one, and the Great Lakes’ experience with other invasive species, like the zebra mussel, has not been a happy one. For another, the carp can grow to gigantic sizes, and there is reason to fear that the carp will consume so much plankton that native fish species, like Lake Erie perch and walleye, will starve. If that happens, it will kill off not only the native fish species, but also the multi-million-dollar sport fishing industry on the Great Lakes. And finally, people care because the Asian carp are some kind of weird, hyper-aggressive superfish that is perfectly willing to fling itself out of the water and hurl itself toward the fisherman or boater, like a bolt from the deep. (Check out the YouTube video I’ve posted below if you don’t believe me, and it is just one of many.) There are stories about the fish knocking people senseless, breaking jaws, and generally wreaking havoc on boats and their occupants. What recreational boater is going to want to go for a leisurely cruise on Lake Erie if their idyllic trip requires them to navigate through a plague-like curtain of massive, leaping fish?