to the Southern states and Gulf of Mexico
ASIAN CARP KRYPTONITE?
from the Great Lakes also provided a path
for invasive species to make the same trip
in reverse. In 2002, an electrical barrier
was installed downstream from Chicago to
stop the round goby, an invasive fish, from
spreading downstream from the Great Lakes.
The goby had different ideas, though. It had
established a home in the Mississippi water-
shed three years earlier. The goby, it turns
out, have good and bad points. While they
can spread botulism, they also eat zebra and
quagga mussels, fellow invasive species.
But it’s difficult to find as much of a
silver lining in the invader currently making
its way back up the pipeline. The electrical
barrier, which arrived too late to stop the
goby, has been repurposed to stop Asian
carp from entering the Great Lakes. The
fish have been dive-bombing boaters on the
Illinois and Mississippi rivers, and destroying
aquatic ecosystems on a march toward Lake
Michigan for about 10 years now. The U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers has undertaken
a massive study of the problem, but with
the specter of the damage carp could do to
Lake Michigan, public patience in the Great
Lakes region has worn thin. Last year, the
Great Lakes Legislative Caucus, composed
of lawmakers from the states and Canadian
provinces bordering the lakes, sent a letter
to the Corps urging them to hurry it along.
The current deadline for the Great Lakes
Mississippi River Interbasin Study is the end
AS ANGLERS GRAPPLE WITH THE SPECTER OF ASIAN CARP knocking on Lake Michigan’s doors, it’s worth revisiting the story of another Great Lakes invader, the sea lamprey. In the 1950s Great Lakes fishermen looked at the sea lamprey with
about the same disdain current anglers have for Asian carp. The difference is, the sea lamprey got into the Great Lakes when no one was watching and devastated native fish as it
spread. With its suction-cup mouth and barbaric ring of teeth, the eel-like creature can leech
the life out of an average-size lake trout or whitefish in about seven days, and kill about 40
pounds of fish in its lifetime.
According to Dr. Marc Gaden, with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, although the lamprey had always been present in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, it entered the rest
of the lakes around 1920 with the expansion of the Welland Canal that connects Lake Ontario
and Lake Erie. By the 1940s its population had exploded in all of the upper Great Lakes. “One
lesson we’ve learned with the sea lamprey is that just one species or one invader can have a
serious impact on both the ecosystem and the economy,” said Gaden.
Over the next 20 years, fish specialists and biologists worked tirelessly to find a way to
stop this invader. Their hard work paid off with the discovery of TFM, a chemical that selectively kills sea lamprey larvae while in spawning streams. Although lamprey may one day
develop an immunity to the lampricide, or opt to spawn in the deeper lake waters where
treating the larvae would be difficult, this method has reduced the population by 90 percent
and kept it in check for more than 40 years. So as Great Lakes anglers and fishery managers contemplate the prospect of another potential invader, the past may provide hope. If the
malevolent lamprey could be tamed by the dogged work of biologists, then maybe they’ll find
the Asian carp’s “kryptonite” as well. — NICOLE PALYA WOOD
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