Poisoning the pond to save the fish

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Here's a byproduct of global trade in the Midwest: Cargo ships from Asia have brought over a species of fish that are causing some big headaches. So environmental officials in Illinois are going unconventional to save a multibillion-dollar sport fishery. Chicago Public Radio's Gabriel Spitzer reports.


Gabriel Spitzer: It's called the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, and Illinois is poisoning it in order to save it.

Philippa Cannon is with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She says the real target is the Asian carp.

Philippa Cannon: They would be almost impossible to control once in Lake Michigan, and could quickly spread throughout the Great Lakes.

These non-native fish eat so much, there's a danger they could starve out the locals. That would risk sinking a fishery worth $7 billion on the U.S. side alone.

Right now an electrified barrier keeps the carp out of Lake Michigan. But the barrier needs maintenance. The poison is supposed to keep fish from sneaking through while engineers do their work. Fishermen are worried poison may not be enough to keep the carp out.

Al Skalecke: I'm known as Captain Al, the fisherman's pal.

Al Skalecke runs three charter boats on Lake Michigan. He dreads a carp invasion.

Skalecke: If they take to the lake, I think it would be all over. It would take the sport fishing industry out.

Scientists aren't certain the Asian carp would be so destructive -- no one's sure how they'd behave in the Great Lakes. But fishermen say they're not interested in taking the chance.

In Chicago, I'm Gabriel Spitzer for Marketplace.

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