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July 15, 2013

To stop a carp

Zoeller embarks on Wabash journey to raise awareness

INDIANAPOLIS — When Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller decided to take a boat ride down the Wabash River to raise awareness about the damage being done by the invasive Asian carp, he was offered this advice by a fish expert: Wear a helmet.

Zoeller may not pack protective gear with him when he heads out on the state’s most iconic river today, but he’ll be on the lookout for the whopper-size “flying fish” wreaking havoc on Indiana waterways.

He’s seen online videos of them hurtling themselves out of the Wabash and heard stories from wary boaters who are careful where they tread: “Because,” as Zoeller said, “the fish will literally jump up and hit you in the face.”

But the danger the Asian carp pose is bigger than their size, which is why Zoeller has invited the man known as the White House’s “Asian carp czar,” John Goss, to join him for the first leg of his nearly 400-mile trip, which starts this morning.

Zoeller — who’s making the river trip on a donated boat and using no taxpayers funds for it — wants Goss to carry the message back to Washington, D.C., that Indiana needs help combating what both men call the “Asian carp crisis.”

Goss’ official job is to keep self-sustaining populations of the fecund and voracious Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes and destroying the region’s eco-system and its $7 billion fishing industry.

But Zoeller also wants that job to include helping Indiana eradicate the self-sustaining populations of Asian carp that are already here and wreaking environmental havoc.

“The real risk is that these things eat everything,” said Zoeller, of the species that was brought over from Asia to the U.S. in the 1970s — with the federal government’s blessing — to clean up the bottoms of catfish ponds and sewage treatment plants.

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