The carp plot thickens

Here at Great Lakes Echo we’re very aware of the Asian carp invasion.  We don’t write much about it because so many people are doing such a great job covering that story, but we do like to keep tabs on new developments. Using the “Suggest a Catch” link at the bottom of our Catch of the Day feature, a reader called our attention to this story in the Metro Times:

Fishing for truth: Did government agencies help create the Asian carp crisis? A lot of blame has been tossed around in the past months.  Irresponsible fish farmers let the carp get into the rivers.  The shipping industry cares more about making a buck than preserving a fragile ecosystem (or the fishing industry). Preventative measures were insubstantial.  Now a new batch of players has been thrown into the ring.    Apparently government agencies moved Asian carp north years ago, and have been keeping mum on the issue.  In the 1970s, the government funded Asian carp research in our neck of the woods. Carp came to Illinois from Arkansas by the truckload to clean up manure and sewage.  An Illinois ecologist says none of the fish escaped.  Not everyone is so sure.

Carp. It’s what’s for dinner.

A Chicago fishmonger has a solution for the asian carp invasion:  If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em!  But it might not be that simple.  He sent carp to some of Chicago’s top chefs and they, well, struggled. The carp are bony, bloody and apparently have a flavor that’s entirely in the eye (or tastebuds) of the beholder. Mike Sula reported on the carp experiment for the Chicago Reader. Some choice excerpts:

From Paul Kahan at the Publican: “After a few attempts at butchering, we were adequately creeped out and will not go any further.” From Sean Sanders at Browntrout: “…tastewise I really don’t like it.

Great Lakes states’ toxic woes (and wins)

Contaminated sites in the Great Lakes are all over the news this week.  And it’s a grab bag of good news/bad news. According to the Detroit News, there are more than 4,000 contaminated orphan sites in Michigan and hardly any money left to clean them up.  (Orphan sites are abandoned by industry and left to the tender mercies of state coffers.)

And then the newswires started buzzing with reports that the EPA has added 10 sites to its Superfund list.  Nearly half of those sites are in Great Lakes states. Next came the news that the EPA also made a list of eight sites to add to the National Priorities List.  Three more sites for the Great Lakes states. Check out EPA’s news release for a list of the superfund and priority sites. So while state money dwindles, we’ve got some federal money zooming our way.  Of course, how long it taes to see the cleanup in action is another matter entirely.

VIDEO: Ice, ice baby

The ice is back, and it’s filling the newsites and blogosphere with echoes of the 1980s.   Happily it has nothing to do with a certain rapper. No, the St. Clair River is once again stoppered by a miles-long ice jam.  The last time the river was this backed up was 1984.  That ice jam was 20 miles long and blocked the passage for 24 days.  It was recently eyed as one of the causes for Lake Huron’s falling water levels. The new ice jam is considerably shorter (a measly 9 miles) and the ice cutters are already racing to the rescue.  Still, ice jams can damage a river bed in a relatively short period of time.  The river water forced under the ice cover is moving fast. Remember when you were a kid playing with the garden hose and you covered half the opening with your thumb and then chased your siblings around with the super-powered water spout?  Yeah.  It’s something like that.  Only instead of terrorizing children, the water is scraping the river bottom clean of sediment and generally messing things up.

VIDEO: Next best thing to an actual Great Lake? Try a virtual one

Under the category “Cool Things on the Web”, I’d like to file the Great Lakes virtual tour by NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. The tour uses a Google Earth plugin and narration to navigate the Lakes.  My favorite part of the tour is the Lake Huron sinkholes by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. I wrote a series of articles on the sinkholes last summer, and am always pleased to give them a shout out. The tour works fine online, but if you have Google Earth on your computer you can download the tour and make better use of some of its features.  This is particularly handy if you want to watch some of the accompanying videos or check out photos.  Otherwise, the site lists the videos below the plugin, so you can watch them on YouTube. This is a great site for a refresher on some of the more interesting geologic and historical features around the Lakes.  At a little more than 13 minutes it might seem like a long commitment (especially by Web standards), but I think you’ll enjoy it.  You might even learn something new about our Lakes.

How connected do you feel to the Lakes?

One of my sources, a scientist at the Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon, Mich., recently chided me for writing about the Great Lakes from the middle of Michigan here in East Lansing.  How could we properly relate to the Lakes when we are so far away, he wondered. It got me thinking.  Does he have point? The Great Lakes Echo is hardly on the beach.  According to Daft Logic’s handy Google Maps distance calculator, the Echo newsroom is 71 miles from Lake Huron, 82 miles from Lake Erie, 88 miles from Lake Michigan, 236 miles from Lake Ontario and 258 miles from Lake Superior as the crow flies.   And as long we we’re being honest, in the six years I’ve lived here, I’ve only been to two of the Great Lakes. But do you have to be on a Lake to feel connected to it?  They influence state policies, provide research opportunities for our universities, influence our weather patterns, draw tourists and their cash, and make this region of North America just a little more unique.  I don’t have to be on the beach to remember that I’m surrounded by massive freshwater seas. But Michigan is unique.  We have more Great Lake shoreline than any other state.  How connected do the folks in Indiana feel to their tip of Lake Michigan?  What about Minnesota, with a side-swipe of Lake Superior?  Or Pennsylvania, the state with the least amount of Lake shoreline?  We’re all in the same basin, we share invasive species and federal policies, but does everyone feel a connection to the Lakes?

Nearshore Navigators

In the Great Lakes, the area closest to shore is also one of the least understood.  This special report explores the innovations scientists use to learn more about the nearshore. Jan. 26
Exploring below the Great Lakes’ surface
Little is known about the currents, fish or bottom of the nearshore area of the Great Lakes.Now, technology is providing researchers a window into what is one of the most productive yet least studied areas of the Lakes. Jan. 27
Triaxus reveals Great Lakes sunken ships and data treasures
One of the Environmental Protection Agency’s newest members uses side-scan sonar to look at the watery depths of Lake Michigan.