Those Orkin man commercials popped into my head when I heard the news that a live Asian carp had been caught in Lake Calumet (which is part of the Chicago canal system near Lake Michigan). If you listen to the experts, you will hear over and over how bighead and silver carp are elusive and difficult to catch using conventional fishing practices. That is…until you have a problem. Like cockroaches skittering across a bathroom floor, when you net one Asian carp, you can bet that there are plenty more where that one came from… Despite comments from an array of folks who should know better, the carp capture affirms the cutting-edge eDNA science that has pointed to the invasive fish infesting our waterways. It is time to stop arguing about whether we have a problem--it is evident now--and start to focus on the solution.
Apparently the Army Corps of Engineers is sort of in agreement… Their contract with the academics who developed and administered the eDNA tests has lapsed. And they have no plans to find someone to take up the job of continuing that essential monitoring. So that must be an admission that the electric fish fence they had said would stop the carp’s headlong swim into Lake Michigan has failed. Otherwise, we would be redoubling our efforts to keep close tabs on where the dangerous fish have advanced so that we can safeguard the Great Lakes, right? Probably wishful thinking on my part...
Either way, we need to get moving much more quickly on the real solution to this issue. Hyrdrologic separation. A physical barrier separating the Great Lakes basin from the Mississippi River system would rebuff the Asian carp still moving up from the Illinois River where they have over run the waters off of Peoria and Starved Rock. It would also prevent movement of other invasive species that would not be deterred by the Corps’ virtual fence.
The folks fighting to keep things the way they are could care less about the health of Lake Michigan. And so they put up strawmen arguments about overblown economic impacts and flooding. That is why the Interbasin Report that the Corps has been instructed to prepare is so important. It will look closely at the engineering issues that must be addressed. Unfortunately, we are told it will take up to seven years to write. Today’s captured fish makes it clear that we don’t have that much time any more. If we don’t speed this up more, we will be seeing a lot more of the Orkin man…in the form of repeated, repugnant, and frustrating poisonings of our waterways to keep this menace at bay. Nobody wants to see that…not even the Orkin man.
This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.