Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Newest Weapon in the Asian Carp Fight: Alligator Fish

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Newest Weapon in the Asian Carp Fight: Alligator Fish

Article excerpt

The alligator gar is a tough fish to love. The long snout, two rows of teeth, and scales so sharp Native Americans used them as arrowheads, all make the decision by several Midwestern states to reintroduce the "river monster" difficult to understand.

Yet reintroduction of the ugly alligator fish to the upper Midwest represents not only the return of a native species once declared extinct in several states, but also a path forward in an ever-more creative fight against a more feared enemy: the Asian carp.

"What else is going to be able to eat those monster carp?" Allyse Ferrara, who studies alligator gar at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, told the Associated Press. "We haven't found any other way to control them."

The Asian carp is a hefty bottom-dweller known for injuring fisherman when it leaps suddenly out of the water. Originally introduced in the 1970s to help with catfish farms in Arkansas, the large fish swam north and now infests the waters of the Mississippi River. Their expansion alarms both biologists and commercial fisherman, who fear the rapidly reproducing "garbage fish" will enter the Great Lakes and destroy a unique ecosystem - and a $7 billion fishing industry.

Efforts to stop this have been numerous and varied. Over President Obama's objections, Congress allotted $300 million to a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a fund started in 2010 over concerns about the Asian carp. This money contributes to catching and netting efforts, an electric fence in the Illinois River near Chicago, and the ongoing building of a "lock and dam" system by the US Army Corps.

In May, a coalition of federal, state, and local officials, companies, and nonprofits completed the first-ever fish wall in Indiana. The 7.5-foot earthen wall separates rivers that Asian carp may traverse from a watershed that biologists called "a back door to Lake Erie," The Christian Science Monitor reported. …

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