On Dec. 21 the state of Michigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately order federal, state, and local officials responsible for Chicago-area locks and waterways to take measures to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. The preliminary injunction goes before the Supreme Court on Friday, Jan. 8.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a brief in support of the lawsuit. Swanson’s brief points out that recreational and commercial fishing on Lake Superior are important to Minnesota’s economy and that maintaining proper stewardship of the Great Lakes by stopping the entry of Asian carp is essential to the continued use and enjoyment of this important American natural resource.
The Obama administration opposes closing the shipping locks. In a memo filed Tuesday, Solicitor General Elena Kagan asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the request for closure. Kagan said closing the locks would endanger public safety and disrupt cargo. She added that federal agencies are working to keep Asian carp out of the lakes.
Asian carp are extremely destructive. They can weigh over 100 pounds, consume large amounts of food, and reproduce rapidly. They pose a threat to native fish species by reducing populations of native plants, an important staple for native fish. Asian carp were brought to the United States by southern catfish farmers to remove algae from fish ponds. They escaped those ponds during flooding in the 1990s and have since spread aggressively to the country’s waterways.
In a report released on Dec. 4, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers noted that the prevention of an inter-basin transfer of bighead and silver carp from the Illinois River to Lake Michigan is paramount in avoiding an ecologic and economic disaster for the Great Lakes. Scientists say if the fish reach the Great Lakes, they could disrupt the food chain and endanger the $7 billion fishery.