Invasive Species: Asian Carp Get Their Day In Court

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The dreaded Asian carp are back in the news today. The five Great Lakes states—Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Ohio—suing to beef up anti-carp defenses scored a legal victory yesterday:

On Monday, a federal judge held an initial hearing and scheduled more hearings for expert testimony in early September. The Michigan attorney general’s office heralded the decision, since it will be the first time the case is heard on its merits. The Supreme Court earlier this year declined to take up the case.

The goal of the lawsuit is to force Chicago to shut down two locks except in cases of emergency, preventing Asian carp from using the canals to reach the Great Lakes. That plan has met with fierce resistance from barge and tour boat operators.

The decision doesn’t meant that the plaintiff states—arrayed against the Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago—will get their way. There are powerful economic interests opposed to closing the Chicago canals, and the economic damage would likely be steep. But as we’ve written before, if the carp get loose and start to multiply in the Great Lakes—which is far from a sure thing—they could do some damage of their own. Hence the push for extreme measures:

John Selleck, a spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, says shutting the locks is a key step. “It’s like knowing you live in a high-crime area and the front door is wide open,” he says.

(As a public service announcement, while politicians running for reelection—and occasional excitable journalists—like to write about the carp as if they’re an invading, carnivorous horde, it should be noted that 0the filter-feeding fish pose a direct threat only to plankton and particularly unlucky boaters.)

We’ll see whether this court case gets much further, but this piece is really just an excuse to post Jacob Templin’s TIME video on the Redneck Fishing Tournament again. Enjoy: