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Test planned to deal with potential carp attack

September 7, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Ten U.S. and Canadian agencies are taking part in a field exercise this week, testing their ability to respond to an invasion of Asian carp in western Lake Erie and head off a major environmental threat to the Great Lakes and their multibillion-dollar fishing industry.

Participants will try out methods such as netting and electrofishing while working on logistics of coordinating their efforts. Officials are concerned that bighead, silver and grass carp may reach the Great Lakes, damaging food chains and the habitats that are important to native varieties such as perch and walleye.

No reproducing populations of Asian carp are known to exist in Lake Erie, although the carp’s DNA has been found in some places.

Silver and bighead carp, imported from Asia in the 1970s, have made their way up the Mississippi and its tributaries, including the Illinois River, which leads to Lake Michigan. Scientists say if the voracious carp reach the lakes, they could unravel food webs and threaten the $7 billion fishing industry.

The field exercise Tuesday through Thursday involves about 60 employees from six of the eight Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario as well as federal agencies.

“This exercise will help us fine-tune our abilities to respond to an invasive species finding in the Great Lakes,” Tammy Newcomb, senior water policy adviser with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement. “It’s also a great opportunity for the Michigan DNR to work closely with other natural resources agencies to implement the Great Lakes invasive species mutual-aid agreement with our partner agencies.”

According to the Michigan agency, the goal is to help implement a mutual aid agreement that Great Lakes governors recently signed.

In January, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented eight options for dealing with the problem, two of which included physically separating the two watersheds. Both carry estimated price tags of at least $15 billion and a 25-year timetable for completion.

Participants include the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Fisheries & Oceans Canada.

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