CLEVELAND – It’s a species that’s become a sensation on the web.
But now, about 90 percent of Ohio voters worry about the latest threat to the Great Lakes: Asian carp.
That figure is according to the survey of 804 general election voters conducted by Fallon Research & Communications, Inc., of Columbus.
“We need a permanent separation as the only solution to keep them out of our Great Lake,” said Rick Unger, president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association.
Unger said the fish are migrating up the Mississippi River and will likely invade the Great Lakes—potentially killing the area’s $7 billion fishing industry.
“Every other fish that people love to catch, like large-mouth bass, are all going to be gone,” said Parma resident Luck Glasko, “and the sport of fishing is going to be downhill and not many people are going to want to do it because they’re catching the same fish over and over again.”
Glasko regularly fishes off the docks of Edgewater Park. He said fish have dwindled in recent years.
“All the other fish that Lake Erie’s known for, walleye, the walleye capitol of the world, they say, and with the Asian carp coming in here, the walleye and all the perch, all the sport fishing is going to be gone out here,” Glasko said.
About half of the fish in the Great Lakes are located right here in Lake Erie, but if Asian carp were to invade these waters, Unger said that the carp would take over and make up about 90 percent of the fish.
“They decimate the food chain, which takes away from our prime fish, our bass, our steel-head, our walleye and perch,” he said. “They take over the ecosystem.”
The fish can weigh up to 100 pounds apiece and some can jump up to 10 feet high.
To prevent the carp from getting to Ohio, the move needs major political support, said Andy Buchsbaum, co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.
Buchsbaum said nearly $4.5 billion is needed to build barriers and add other preventative measures to keep the fish from arriving. Those barriers would mainly be built in Chicago waters, where the Asian carp would first arrive. The cost would be spread over 25 years.
“This is like any other major infrastructure project for a large city,” Buchsbaum said. “The difference being, simply than protecting that city and the shoreline near that city, it protects the entire Great Lakes.”
Of the five great lakes, Unger said Lake Erie is most vulnerable.
It’s an ideal habitat for growth, and potentially, home to most of the Asian carp.
“Ohio cannot afford to lose that fishery and that’s what’s at stake and that’s why it’s so critical to have a permanent barrier,” Unger said.