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States, provinces agree to Great Lakes protection

– The governors of eight states surrounding the Great Lakes and the leaders of two Canadian provinces agreed Saturday to join forces to combat invasive species including Asian carp.

Amid disagreement over the best long-term solution and how to pay for it, the mutual aid deal reached Saturday empowers the states and Canadian provinces to share staff and expertise to do what they can to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes and imperiling the fishing industry.

“The threat of aquatic invasive species transcends borders, and this agreement allows us to address this threat through collaboration and cooperation,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, co-chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

Saturday’s final round of meetings in Chicago between the council and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec also addressed improving maritime transport and attracting Chinese and other foreign investment in manufacturing in the region.

The bighead and silver carp species have infested much of the Mississippi River basin since escaping from southern fish farms in the 1970s. They are threatening to reach the Great Lakes through rivers and canals, leading the federal government to spend millions to try to stop them. They are a menace to the aquatic food chain because they eat enormous amounts of plankton needed by native species.

The main disagreement over how to stop the fish centers on the idea of physically separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds by placing structures in the Chicago-area waterways that offer a pathway for the carp to reach Lake Michigan.

There is strong opposition to that approach in Illinois and Indiana.

But the talk at the two-day meeting at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium was of cooperation.

“We may come from different shorelines, but challenges go beyond our borders,” said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, the council’s other co-chair. “As leaders of the region, we come together as champions for our beloved Great Lakes.”

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