Study suggests carp would do well in Lake Michigan

If anyone among us thought the fight to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes was all but won, a new report just out in recent days should put a stop to those thoughts.

The University of Michigan research paper found that the species would likely flourish if it ever made it to Lake Michigan. Previous thinking held that Asian carp wouldn’t do all that well in the Great Lakes because of a drop-off in plankton, the tiny plants and animals on which bighead and silver carp typically feed, The Associated Press reported Monday.

“Our study indicates that the carp can survive and grow in much larger areas of the lake than previous studies suggested,” said Peter Alsip, an ecological modeling data analyst and lead author of the paper published in the journal Freshwater Biology.

What that means is the fish, which were imported in the late 1960s to eat algae in Deep South sewage lagoons and fish farms before escaping into the Mississippi River, migrating northward, branching into dozens of tributaries, absolutely must be stopped. But it won’t be cheap. Just this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed equipping the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, with noisemakers, electric barriers and other deterrents at a cost of at least $778 million.

And that’s on top of the many, many millions of dollars that have already been spent in the effort, with no end in sight.

So there it is. Do nothing, let nature take its course and the Great Lakes $7 billion annual fishery is threatened. Or keep the fight up, on the other hand and continue to pour vast amounts of increasingly hard to come by public dollars into a war that may, or may not, be winnable.

We wish there was a third choice.