Asian Carp Discussion at Avon Lake Library Jan. 12
Invasive species expert David Kelch will address concerns Wednesday.
The concern over Asian Carp entering Lake Michigan through the Chicago waterways might not seem like an issue that would worry people in Avon Lake. But it could be a tragedy for communities on Lake Erie in Ohio, says an invasive species expert.
"Business and recreational activities could be devastated in shoreline communities if Asian carp enter the Great Lakes." David Kelch, an associate professor with the Ohio State University Sea Grant Program, said.
Kelch is scheduled to speak at the Avon Lake Public Library Jan. 12 as part of the Environmental Issues Series.
Five states, including Ohio, have sued to close the locks in Chicago to create a barrier to prevent the carp from moving into Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes.
A federal judge in Chicago, however, recently ruled against the states, saying they failed to show that closing the locks immediately was essential to block the carp's path to Lake Michigan.
Kelch called the court decision "politics at its worst." He said President Barack Obama is from Chicago, a city with an economic interest in keeping the locks open, and that "played a role in the court's ruling."
Kelch said Avon Lake and other shoreline communities have an economic interest in keeping out the voracious invader. Some carp reach more than 100 pounds, and eat half their body weight in algae every day.
"Algae is the basis of the food chain needed by other fish that spawn in Lake Erie, including walleye, bass, and yellow perch," Kelch said.
While some researchers have questioned whether carp could survive the deep waters of Lake Michigan and make their way to Lake Erie, Kelch said carp could establish populations in the near-shore areas of Lake Michigan and then move on to Lake Erie.
"That could take as long as 60 years – or as little as two or three years; there's no good answer to that yet," Kelch said. "Asian carp have made their way up the Mississippi River and within 10 years have destroyed the habitat for 95 percent of the fish in some areas."
Joe Slife, the secretary of the Avon Lake Boat Club, doesn't want Lake Erie to suffer the same fate and said his members enjoy the abundance of native fish.
"It would be awful if future generations were totally robbed of this opportunity due to political gaming and shortsighted decisions to protect shipping commerce," Slife said, "We need to … rally our voices and let our political representatives know our concern."
Kelch said the Great Lakes have a $7 billion fishing and tourism industry at stake, and said anyone who "runs a restaurant, a gas station, or just enjoys fishing around Avon Lake and other shoreline communities should be concerned about carp."
"The entirety of the research and environmental communities agrees that the best way to stop carp is to close the Chicago locks," Kelch said.
A hearing on the status of the lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 7.
Kelch's Jan. 12 presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the McMahon Room at the Avon Lake Public Library.
The Environmental Issues Series is held the second Wednesday of each month and is co-sponsored by the Environmental Committee of Avon Lake City Council.