Monday, August 08, 2016

Monstrous Alligator Gar vs. Asian Carp Invasion!

“There was never a thought in our minds at all about any kind of control on Asian carp.”1

Our present media, ravished by the Internet and desperate for advertisement bucks, are forever seeking stories that will engage the public. Not necessarily in a good way. Too often, rather than taking the time to inform the public about important stuff, our media tends towards outrageous, titillating tidbits of gobbledygook.  

Tackling thorny issues like invasive species in a time of Climate Change is going to be a herculean challenge, virtually on the level of the twelve labors of Heracles himself. Ecosystems, such as the Great Lakes, are going to be transformed by warmer waters, less ice cover, and the more extreme weather that comes with a warming climate—not to mention a myriad of pollutants like toxic flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, plastic bits, human waste (from periodic sewer overflows), and pesticides. On top of all that, some invasive species may well survive better than our endemic species under these conditions.

Much speculation by scientists about the invasion of the Asian Carp (actually, there are three species of these critters) anticipates the arrival of this crazy, leaping fish. Will the Asian Carp totally decimate our Great Lakes ecosystem by gobbling up endemic fish, or will all the ink spilled about this invasion come to nothing? Most folks seem to be leaning towards the prudent notion that given what we know about the Asian Carp in other waters, it wouldn’t be a good idea to allow them into our precious Great Lakes system. But they are coming. Continual sightings and DNA droppings throughout the Great Lakes are heralding their arrival. And, there are insufficient funds and efforts for keeping them out.

Asian carp ‘fatigue’ threatens Great Lakes Boat captains call on Congress to renew efforts to address potential invasion Great Lakes charter boat captains are calling on Congress to refocus efforts on Asian carp, the exotic species with a voracious appetite that many fish biologists fear would wreak havoc on the region’s $7 billion fishery if they ever became established in it. Those fishing captains are one of the groups with the most to lose, because they are highly dependent on a diverse mix of fish species to make their businesses more attractive. That’s especially true in Lake Erie, where more fish are spawned than the rest of the Great Lakes combined. (August 3, 2016) The Toledo Blade

What to do? It seems hopeless, like it did in the 1980’s trying to keep the Zebra Mussels out of our local waters. Some have suggested that we just learn to love and eat the prolific Asian Carp. Most others don’t think that’s a good idea at all—given the potential disruption to the greatest freshwater system in the world.

Enter the media. Recently, the media has seized onto the unsubstantiated idea of a monstrous-looking endemic species, once brought back to a sizeable population, could put the Asian Carp in its place—the lively carp would meet its match.

Once-hated fish now sought to combat Asian carp Persecuted by anglers and deprived of places to spawn, the alligator gar — with a head that resembles an alligator and two rows of needlelike teeth — survived primarily in southern states in the tributaries of the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico after being declared extinct in several states farther north. To many, it was a freak, a “trash fish” that threatened sport fish, something to be exterminated. But the once-reviled predator is now being seen as a valuable fish in its own right, and as a potentially potent weapon against a more threatening intruder: the invasive Asian carp, which have swum almost unchecked toward the Great Lakes, with little more than an electric barrier to keep them at bay. Efforts are now under way to reintroduce the alligator gar from Illinois to Tennessee. (July 31, 2016 Detroit Free Press)

I know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that, but is reestablishing the monstrous alligator gar the way to curb the Asian Carp? What if, instead, both become our enemy?

Anyway, according to the biologist actually part of the team trying to reestablish the gar, “There was never a thought in our minds at all about any kind of control on Asian carp.”1

Alligator Gar Not Effective Weapon Against Asian Carp, Says Biologist A spate of recent news articles have suggested that reintroducing a mammoth fish called the alligator gar into Illinois waterways may help protect Lake Michigan from the invasive Asian carp. But not everyone believes this to be true, including Dan Stephenson, a longtime biologist and chief of fisheries at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. That's the state agency that’s reintroducing the once-extinct alligator gar into Illinois’ waterways. “We’re just trying to bring back an extirpated species, a native fish that was here once and we’d like to have them back,” Stephenson said. “There was never a thought in our minds at all about any kind of control on Asian carp.” (August 3, 2016) Chicago Tonight WTTW 

The media, ya gotta laugh: Biologists trying to reintroduce monstrous alligator gar into the Great Lakes never thought they could handle the Asian Carp. Asian Carp would vastly outnumber the gars and the gars cannot even open their jaws wide enough to gobble up a humungous Asian Carp. But the media likes to publish stories about bringing back great big monster-bad fish to eat the hordes of a big invasive species—and save the day! Makes for good sales, I guess.  

Our media needs to evolve into an information system that will help us get through Climate Change, the mother of all problems (which will include dealing with invasive species). 

Time passes. 

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