Delay in Asian carp defence plans ill-considered

The current president of the United States, Donald Trump, made little secret of his contempt for all things environmental while on the hustings, but news that he has begun to follow up his electoral rhetoric with negative action has brought cries of dismay on many fronts.

Among some of the latest moves has been the delay in the implementation process of creating a crucial defence barrier to an invasion of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

The US Army Corps of Engineers was to release draft results of a study, begun in April 2015, on possible structural or technological upgrades at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, a few miles downstream of a network of electrical barriers intended to repel the carp. A final version of the plan was to be released in early 2019. These things take a lot of time to bring to fruition at the best of times, and the draft report still had a public commentary process to go through before any final plan could be finalized, so throwing a further delay into the process borders on the unconscionable.

While the Trump administration had not admitted complicity in the delay (aka call for review) it is no secret that business and shipping interests have long been against the project, as have some Illinois state officials and other members of the US Congress who say it could hamper inland navigation.

It would seem shipping trumps fishing and boater safety in the mind of President Trump and his advisors.

The potentially devastating impact of the Asian carp seems to hold little, if any, traction in Washington. Perhaps the notoriously avaricious appetite of the invasive fish has found a kindred spirit among those whose hands now wield the levers of power.

America was born in a land of plenty and its inhabitants have long been used to the seemingly inexhaustible largesse bestowed upon the continent by Mother Nature. The buffalo had to go in the interest of agriculture and conquest in the Midwest. The carrier pigeons who once darkened the skies made cheap pies to feed the legions of workers who powered the growing industrial might of the nascent nation seemed inexhaustible—they weren’t.

With nothing to stop the advance of the Asian carp, it is likely the native species that we have grown up stalking with bobber and pole will go to join the dodo and the carrier pigeon as no more than a memory, or at best a shadow of their former selves.

Perhaps it is fitting, if sad, commentary that the native fisheries replacement will be a creature as notorious for it avaricious appetite as the unfettered American version of capitalism currently ascendant in our neighbours to the south. Fitting, but terribly sad.