Black list urged for imported species

Instead of a permissive “white list” of exotic species allowed into the United States, David Thomas believes there should be a “black list.”
What this veteran Illinois scientist means is that importers of foreign species should bear the burden of proof that incoming species are safe for the environment. If not, then importation should be illegal under U.S. law, he maintains.
Thomas, former head of the Illinois Natural History Survey and a fish scientist, has witnessed first hand the devastation brought by Asian carp to the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. He has observed their crowding out of other species. He has observed tons of them jump into the air simultaneously when electronically stimulated.
The Big Head and Silver carp, two of the Asian species, were introduced under permissive rules to southern catfish ponds as a means of controlling algae. They escaped and have caused havoc.
Once a new species is on the loose, Thomas believes not much can be done in the way of controls. In that vein, he is skeptical that the current electronic barriers on the Chicago River will be sufficient to keep the flying carp out of the Great Lakes.
He supports efforts to thin the new species through harvesting. Currently, though, fishing is not much of a solution, because carp meat brings very low prices. There is irony in this abundance, because carp production is declining in China where carp is a dietary staple.
Because solutions are elusive, Thomas believes in decisive emergency measures on prevention of the escape of new species. In addition to blacklisting new imported species, he wants to see immediate steps taken to cleanup or eliminate dumping of ballast waters by ocean freighters plying the Great Lakes.
The restrictions have to be national law and policy, not state-by-state, he told a Great Lakes Conference this week. “If you are going to do something, you have to do it across the board.”
It is hard to fathom why policy makers don’t listen to the smartest, wisest, most experienced people in the land on subjects like this.

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