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07/25/2013

Obama's water cannons and love potion won't stop the dreaded carp: Michigan

Fish

Stun guns, water cannons and love potion are woeful weapons against the looming threat of the Asian carp, warned Michigan's attorney general on Thursday.

The U.S. government released its long awaited $50 million strategy on how it plans on stopping the dreaded, invasive carp from entering into the Great Lakes and destroying a $7 billion fishery industry on Wednesday.

It is fair to say the state of Michigan was not impressed with the Obama administration plan.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette accused Obama of playing "Russian Roulette" with the fish and that stun guns and water cannons simply will not do the job.  

“For every family in Michigan who takes summer fishing trips, to those who enjoy a peaceful boat ride or have a job dependent on Michigan’s tourism trade, I simply am not willing to stand by and wait for Asian carp to invade Michigan waters.  We must act right away to slam the door shut on the Mississippi River basin,” he said. 

The Asian carp was introduced to the southern United States nearly 40 years ago and since then it has crept north towards the Great Lakes. The carp is a voracious fish, typically weighing two to four kilograms but with the ability to grow to 40 kilograms and stretch to a metre long.

The fish eat up to 20 per cent of their body weight in plankton every day, according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources fact sheet on Asian carp. The term "Asian carp" includes Bighead, Silver, Grass and Black carp. It's the Bighead and Silver that pose the greatest threats.

The ministry also warns silver carp are hazardous to boaters as they can jump up to three metres out of the water. "Boaters and water-skiers in areas of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers have been seriously injured by jumping fish," the ministry said.

So far, efforts to stop the fish from migrating north have largely failed. Underwater electric fences were tried but didn't work.  Three years ago, Michigan went to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to  force Illinois to close shipping locks leading to the Great Lakes. That also failed.

Schuette said Obama's plan, once again, depends upon unproven stop-gap measures such as water cannons and more electrical fences but what is needed is immediate action to separate the two basins before it is too late.

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga.

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