Thames River bridge - Photo by Robert Taylor
by Jeff Kart, Bay City, Michigan
This was an actual test. But only a test. Like those emergency tones you hear on your TV when a storm is approaching. Officials in Ontario, Canada, think the possibility of a live Asian carp invasion via truck is real. People have been caught trying to bring the invasive fish to the Toronto fish market, as we reported earlier. Threats like this have Ontario officials working on ways to contain a spill, should one occur. They recently came up with a plan. But is it just a matter of time before this happens? Is this plan responsive enough, and what other plans are there throughout the Great Lakes basin?
According to information from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, officials in March held a "tabletop exercise" to test how various agencies would respond if an accident in southwestern Ontario caused a truckload of live Asian carp to be dumped in a river. Such exercises are usually used to practice for things like natural disasters or influenza outbreaks, which tells you something.
As explained in a document about that exercise:
"The Great Lakes are one of the world's most important natural resources—holding one fifth of the world's fresh surface water, home to more than 150 species of fish, and vital to the economy of Ontario and neighbouring U.S. states.
But several kilometres from Lake Michigan lurks a threat that could change the Great Lakes forever. The fish known as Asian carp could wipe out native fish species, devastate sport and commercial fisheries, and cause far-reaching changes to the Great Lakes ecosystem."
Ontario officials fear that Asian carp could spread in the Great Lakes just like they did in the Mississippi River basin, crowding out native fish.
There's been some speculation that the worst of the species, bighead and silver carp, wouldn't survive long should they get past an electric barrier near Chicago and into Lake Michigan, in part because other invasive species have already screwed up that lake's ecosystem. Other experts think the fish could perhaps survive in Lake Erie, on the other side of Michigan.
"We think that a scenario like this one is a real possibility," a Ministry spokeswoman says of the truck spill. "It's illegal in Ontario to possess, sell or import Asian carp and other live invasive species, but we know that people are still trying to bring live Asian carp across the border."
... read more story at TreeHugger.com