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Monday, September 13, 2010

Immigration case in US Court - not of human but of Carp the Asian Fish

One swallow does not make a summer is a famous quotation attributed to Aristotle.   But a single Asian carp found in Lake Calumet on Chicago’s south side about 6 miles downstream of Lake Michigan has raised many concerns of threat to Great lakes !!!!

The worst fears of continued illegal immigration from Bangladesh into the Nation’s northeast sector along the porous border is not entirely unconfounded. The steady flow of illegal immigrants is significantly altering the region’s demographic complexion and is fraught with political implications threatening the security of the country.

Immigration means the introduction of new people into a habitat or population – a biological concept. People do move in search of greener pastures and sometimes the National limits are not the barriers. Poor individuals from less developed Nations can have far higher standards of living in developed countries when they move out of the Nation for doing manual labour. What worries most Nations is the illegal movement of people across their frontiers. There are occasions when people move stealthily into the other domain often through dangerous methods – in trucks, country boats, shipping containers, stowaways & more….

Many die of starvation, suffocation, illness, diseases, dehydration et al. An official estimate puts the number of people who died in illegal crossings across US Mexico border in past two decades @ close to 2000.
This immigration which was in news is different. Seas do not have barriers. Carp is a common name of various species of an oily fresh water fish of the family of cyprinidae, a very large group of fish native to Europe and Asia. There reportedly are many species of heavy bodied fish collectively known in US as Asian corp, the Indian varieties of catla and mrigal are not in this group.

Silver carp were imported to North America in 1970s to control algae growth in aquaculture; initially bighead, silver and black carp from Taiwan were first introduced to US by an Arkansan fish farmer primarily as weed control agent. Subsequently, a breeding programme was initiated. In 1979, the US Environmental Protection Agency experimented with carps in sewage treatment. Early 1990s saw migration of carps into Mississippi river when the aquaculture facilities were flooded. In 2002 the bighead carp breaking through the experimental electric barrier between Mississippi and lake Michigan was reported.

Early this year Michigan’s attorney General filed law suit demanding canal and lock closures between Illinois and Lake Michigan stating that stopping asian carp was an economic and environmental necessity. It was contended that the Great Lakes are under threat by invasion of asian carps and this would render thousands jobless and would adversely affect the fishing industry and recreational boating. There were also protests near Lake Michigan shore by fishing enthusiasts and state representatives against the Illinois’s opposition to the closure of Chicago area locks.

This had political overtures also. Obama administration pledged $ 78.5 M to fight the menace but the Michigan Governor opposed stating that cash and a plan for a part time closure of Chicago area locks would not prevent the Great Lakes from asian carp. The administration’s proposal known as Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework was to involve increased DNA sampling of water, a third electric barrier in Chicago waterways to dispel the invasive species and land barriers to keep carp from crossing the electric blockade during floods and also included funding for chemical treatment, if all these fail.

At Michigan, this fish united the Democrats & Republicans in call for sealing the waterways. There even was a CARP Act (close all routes and prevent asian carp today) & Michigan pumped vigorously to take the fight to US Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court abruptly brought this to end with a terse two sentence denial. The critics said that President Obama has turned a blind eye to the millions of Great Lakes residents as they did not happen to live in his home state of Illinois. The Michigan Carp case generated more than two dozen motions, responses, memoranda, appendices and friend of court briefs. Thus Carp became a significant National issue. Illinois state officials opposed the closure attempts on economic grounds, noting that the locks and canals are used for flood control and to transport millions of tonnes of cargo.

After all the legal wrangle, a single asian carp has been found in Lake Calumet raising grave concerns. The first time spotting of a male carp beyond the Army corps of Engineer’s electric barrier system was viewed with concern and the fish was sent to University of Illinois for analysis.

Perhaps in some other part of the World, a fish that too the one which jumps out of water would be fishermen’s delight but in US the anglers are not excited.

To the rest of the World, Fish is an aquatic vertebrate, cold blooded ones abundantly found in water. In US, Carps have generated so much of heat, arguments, articles, public interest, litigation, Court time and expenditure. A very advanced country at that …

Regards – Sampathkumar S