A Man. A Plan. A Canal. A Fish

There’s a battle going on before the U.S. Supreme Court by a man with a plan to close a canal because of a fish.

The fight involves Illinois and Michigan.  In this state vs. state battle, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox (the man) is suing to close the Chicago Canal (the plan and the canal), a man-made waterway that connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan.  The reason he is looking to do so is because of  the Asian Carp (the fish).

This carp is an invasive.  They were brought in by catfish farmers down south several decades ago and have been working there way north since large floods in the early 1990s caused many of the catfish farm ponds to overflow their banks.  The fish are now poised to invade the Great Lakes through the canal.  Closing the locks appears to be only way to keep them out.

This carp is a nasty fish that has a tendency to jump out of the water when startled. Because of its size and the speed at which it exits the water, it can cause serious injury to boaters and fisherman.  Check out any of the videos on YouTube if you want to see the carp in action.  In addition, the fish has a voracious appetite and has the potential to harm the Great Lakes ecosystem.  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency:

“Asian Carp are a significant threat to the Great Lakes because they are large, extremely prolific, and consume vast amounts of food.  They can weigh up to 100 pounds, and can grow to a length of more than four feet.  They are well-suited to the climate of the Great Lakes region, which is similar to their native Asian habitats.

“Researchers expect that Asian carp would disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes.  Due to their large size, ravenous appetites, and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes Ecosystem.”

Illinois disagrees about the closure .  It claims the canal is needed to transport goods into and out of the Great Lakes and closing the canal would cause it great economic loss to the tune of $300 million a year.  What they don’t mention is that the fish threatens tourism and fishing interests valued at $7 billion per year (including losses to Illinois since it also borders Lake Michigan).

Michigan wants the canal closed for all the above reasons. Other states that border the Great Lakes and Ontario agree.  So do I.  The canal should be closed.  The damage the fish can do to the Great Lakes region as a whole is far greater than the economic benefit the canal brings to Illinois.

Illinois disagrees. It appears to see nothing but the dollars the canal brings in; the Great Lakes and the rest of us be damned.   Even the Obama administration weighed into this fight and took the side of Illinois.  So much for the president and his environmental stand…

The Wall Street Journal, in an article this past December, included the comment below from a reader.  If you have any doubt about the validity of closing the canal, what this person wrote might just change your mind.

“I have a 100 ft boat on the Mississippi. The bow of my boat is at least 10 feet up from the river. These slimy fish jump into my boat. They bleed profusely from the impact and you have not smelled something as foul as an Asian Carp.

“My grandkids used to jet-ski on the river. They can’t now because I sold the jet-skis after one of them was knocked off the machine and injured by a jumping carp. Furthermore, you can’t fish or swim in the river any longer.

“These fish are destroying the ecosystems of our rivers and must be stopped.”

Go Mike Cox.

Categories: ecology | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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