NEWS

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January 17, 2010

Prof: River-choking carp could infest Lake Michigan

Reuben Keller, an ecology professor at Notre Dame, warned of the environmental and economic dangers of the invasive Asian carp to the Great Lakes Tuesday night in Harper Memorial Library. The event was sponsored by the Triple Helix Society, a science RSO.

The issue has received serious attention of late: The Supreme Court decided Friday to hear arguments in a suit seeking to prevent further Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes from the infested Mississippi River.

Not only do invasive species cost an estimated $120 billion globally each year in prevention measures and damage, but economic activity drives their invasion, Keller said. “The process of invasion is systematic to how we run our society,” he said, calling it "a side effect of globalization."

Introduced in America in the 1970’s, the Asian carp served as a cleaner fish for aquaculture ponds, but escaped the ponds in the Mississippi floods of the 1990’s. They terrorize boaters, frequently “breaking noses and limbs,” Keller said.

The carp has yet to reach the Great Lakes; to do so it need traverse the Chicago Shipping Canal, which Michigan seeks to prevent in the Supreme Court.

Using a risk assessment model, Keller showed tough prevention policy was “economically reasonable”, with the long-term benefits outweighing the repercussions. “We need to focus on prevention,” Keller said, adding that there exists “real potential to prevent additional species from entering the Great Lakes.”