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Scientists say there's still time to stop dreaded Asian carp from taking over Great Lakes

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 8:18 p.m.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — At least some Asian carp probably have found their way into the Great Lakes, but there's still time to stop the dreaded invaders from becoming established and unraveling food chains that support a $7 billion fishing industry and sensitive ecosystems, according to a scientific report released on Thursday.

Written by experts who pioneered use of genetic data to search for the aggressive fish, the paper disagrees with government scientists who say many of the positive Asian carp DNA hits recorded in or near the lakes in recent years could have come from other sources, such as excrement from birds that fed on carp in distant rivers.

“The most plausible explanation is still that there are some carp out there,” said Christopher Jerde of the University of Notre Dame, the lead author. “We can be cautiously optimistic ... that we're not at the point where they'll start reproducing, spreading further and doing serious damage.”

The paper summarizes findings by Jerde and other scientists from Notre Dame, The Nature Conservancy and Central Michigan University during two years of searching the Great Lakes basin for Asian carp. The fish have migrated northward in the Mississippi River and many tributaries since escaping from Deep South ponds in the 1970s. Scientists fear they will out-compete prized sport and commercial species.

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