They're spectacular leaps by huge fish, some weighing up to 100 pounds.
These are Asian carp, brought into the United States as a management tool for aqua culture farms and sewer treatment facilities. But they've escaped from the confines of the ponds and have infested waterways throughout the Midwest, especially the Mississippi River basin.
Scientists and environmentalists are terrified of what will happen should Asian carp enter the Great Lakes. They predict that these voracious carp would decimate the food chain and have catastrophic effects on native fish populations.
In Lake Michigan, that means salmon and lake trout, perch, bass and walleye — and the billions of dollars these fish bring to our local economy each year.
Although there’s some worry of Asian carp appearing in Lake Erie, the most pressing threat comes from the Chicago River, which connects with the Illinois River and, eventually, the Mississippi.
The only thing keeping Asian carp at bay is an electronic barrier located on the Chicago River, 37 miles from the Windy City’s downtown. Only one Asian carp has been found beyond that barrier, in 2010.
But in the past year, Asian carp environmental DNA has been found in Chicago-area waters very close to Lake Michigan.
Scientists don’t know whether so-called environmental DNA, or “eDNA,” signals the presence of live fish or could have come from another source, such as bilge water from ships or feces from fish-eating birds. Still, government policy requires an intensive search whenever three consecutive rounds of sampling yield positive results.
An extensive search of the Chicago River was conducted over a 6-mile stretch of the Chicago River just last week. Commercial fishing crews placed nets in the water, and government employees used electronic stunning devices to catch fish in shallower waters.
Hopefully, those searches come up empty. But, regardless of the results, the fact is Asian carp are coming, and we need to do all we can to keep these devastating invaders at bay. One electronic barrier is not enough. There have been cases where the barrier has gone down due to power outages.
A plan is in place to speed up development to prevent migrations of Asian carp into the Great Lakes. That plan is scheduled for release in late 2015. That's not good enough. Too much is at stake.
This problem has been on the back burner for more than a decade, and now the problem is staring us square in the face.
If these destructive invaders are allowed to reach Lake Michigan, the lake as we know it — along with the Grand River and all other connecting waterways — will suffer irrevocable damage. We can't let that happen.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Liz Stuck and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.