It sounds preposterous that one of the biggest threats to the Great Lakes is a fish. But Asian carp, an invasive species, are no laughing matter, and could seriously damage the Great Lakes’ ecosystem. Last week, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox filed a second request with the U.S. Supreme Court for an injunction to force Illinois to close commercial waterways through which the fish are migrating. Since the Great Lakes are an interstate resource, their safety lies squarely in the hands of the federal government, which has so far refused to act. The Supreme Court should issue an injunction to stop the progress of Asian carp toward the Great Lakes.

Asian carp, imported to the Mississippi River area to control algae populations, have now migrated north and are threatening the Great Lakes. The fish are currently contained behind electric fencing at the Illinois border. But detection of traces of Asian carp DNA north of the barriers suggests that the fences are failing. On Dec. 21, Cox filed a request for an injunction with the U.S. Supreme Court to force Illinois to close locks between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and Lake Michigan and stall the progress of the fish. The Supreme Court chose not to hear the case. Cox renewed his request on Feb. 4.

Should they enter the Great Lakes, Asian carp will upset the balance of the ecosystem by taking up more than their fair share of resources. And as if the environmental damage wasn’t alarming enough, the result of damage to the lakes would be economically disastrous. The invasive fish would endanger the billion-dollar commercial fishing and tourism industries throughout the region. Michigan, particularly, can’t afford the loss of another major industry.

All of the Great Lakes states will suffer should the carp reach the lakes. But Illinois, which depends upon the trade in the Illinois River, has refused to close its commercial waterways. Illinois is discounting the long-term effects of damage to the Great Lakes. Illinois’s shortsighted refusal to close the waterways will only lead to interstate catastrophe. Currently, the rest of the Great Lakes states are trying to urge Illinois into action — yesterday, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm joined Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn at the White House to discuss the issue. But if Illinois refuses to act, federal intervention will be necessary.

The Supreme Court has refused to intervene in the matter — it shut down Cox’s first request for an injunction without even hearing the case. But because this is an interstate dispute and it will affect all the Great Lakes states, the federal government has a responsibility to get involved. The Supreme Court should hear Cox’s case, and issue an injunction to force Illinois to close its waterways and halt the progress of the Asian carp.

The effects of damage to the ecosystem caused by Asian carp would reach far beyond one state, and the federal government must get involved to prevent disaster. The Supreme Court needs to take decisive action to stop the Asian carp invasion.

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