Gas prices down, microbeads out and carp killed

What do lower gas prices, eliminating microbeads and holding carp at bay have in common? They’re all good for boating.

First, consumers have saved $65 billion in the first six months of this year compared to the same time last year thanks to lower gas prices, according to AAA. This equates to an average savings of $530 per household.

While the current national average is about $2.77 per gallon, prices have actually averaged $2.45 per gallon this year, the cheapest average price for the first six months of the year since 2009. Comparatively, gas prices averaged about 91 cents higher during the first six months of 2014.

Even better, it’s possible that history could repeat last year’s dramatic selloff in gas prices as the summer rolls on. Now that’s a story I’d like to write. Regardless, it’s all putting more money in consumers’ pockets and it bodes well for increased boating this summer, especially for those who cruise as that’s the segment that cuts down on cruising when gas prices are high.

Meanwhile, microbeads that scientists say cause harmful environmental effects because they resemble fish eggs will disappear in Wisconsin. Fish and other aquatic life eat them, absorbing toxins and potentially harming shorebirds and possibly even humans who consume the fish.

Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation that bans manufacturers from using the synthetic tiny plastic beads in products after studies have shown they’ve turning up in the Great Lakes and other waterways. The microbeads are added to products like personal care items and over-the-counter drugs because of their abrasive qualities. They end up flushed down sinks and toilets and eventually find their way into streams, rivers and lakes.

Wisconsin joins another Great Lakes state, Illinois, in banning microbeads. The action is good for boating and fishing for the long term.

And, speaking of long-term outlooks that can sustain good boating and fishing on the Great Lakes, the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee announced $60 million in projects to fend off the destructive Asian carp that threatens to devastate the $7 billion annual impact of recreational angling and commercial fishing in the Great Lakes.

The committee is made up of U.S. and Canadian officials at federal, state and provincial levels. The $60 million effort is aimed at preventing the carp from reaching the Great Lakes in numbers large enough to destroy native fish species.

The control strategy focuses on keeping Asian carp from the series of Chicago-area waterways that link the carp-infested Mississippi River watershed to Lake Michigan. It also focuses on the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Eagle Marsh, a potential pathway for Asian carp from the Wabash River to get into the Maumee River and up to Lake Erie’s fertile western basin. Western Lake Erie is the most productive spawning area for native fish in the Great Lakes region.

Bighead Asian carp and silver Asian carp, the two most destructive species, have been present in the Chicago Ship Canal for the last several years. Bigheads are the largest and are voracious eaters while silvers are the species that make news because they literally fly out of water like projectiles when sensing vibrations from boats. They have injured boaters.

The committee plans to research possible ways to control the carp including the idea of a new lock-and-dam that would separate Lake Michigan’s watershed from the Mississippi River, which is infested with the carp.

One thing seems certain: If the carp get into the Great Lakes and if the predicted destruction of the native sportfishing industry were to be realized, the damage to the region’s boating industry could be extraordinary. After all, the Great Lakes region holds the most registered pleasure boats in the nation.


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