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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

POWER: Preserve the beauty of Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan — I smell it before I see it. The refreshing breeze blows a gentle yet raw smell with a hint of fish, and when the blue water meets my eyes, it comes to life.

On its shoreline, there are families playing on the sandy beaches. People are flying kites on a big open field near its harbor. White sailboats go in and out between the piers on which fishermen cast their lines.

My favorite spot is McKinley Marina pier. The cement walkway goes out into the lake for a long while and then bends back toward the harbor. I like to sit and lean my back against a little wall that runs down the middle of the pier. With the city behind me, all I can see is water and the all-blue horizon.

About 10,000 years ago, in this very spot, I would have been frozen inside a glacier. The years before Jean Nicolet and other Europeans first came to Lake Michigan, the Winnebago Native Americans might have been looking out over the water just inshore from where I am now.

This area has experienced a lot of changes, and it seems as though it might experience more in the near future.

Since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened and the Great Lakes shipping industry began about 60 years ago, Lake Michigan’s natural ecology has been struggling with invasive exotic creatures.

First came the little Atlantic Ocean fish, called alewife. Shortly after, an invasion of lamprey eels attacked and greatly decreased the natural population of lake trout. Since then, there have been zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, round gobies and many others.

Now, there is the threat of silver, black and bighead Asian carp. If they invade Lake Michigan, native predator fish could lose the battle for food and die off in large amounts.

Whether or not the Chicago River is reversed in an effort to keep them from coming in through the Illinois River, there is still a chance they can sneak in. For example, there have been cases in which fishermen dump their left-over bait into a lake, not knowing there is an exotic species accidentally mixed in with the other minnows.

It is likely I could be sitting in this spot within the next few years and instead of watching the waves, I would be watching these infamous jumping fish fly through the air. Fishermen would be on other waters in which they can catch brown trout.

Fishing has been an influential part of Milwaukee’s culture in the past century, but it is already dying out. Yellow perch fish fries along the lakefront used to be a popular event.

Now it is impossible to keep them going since Lake Michigan’s yellow perch population has decreased due to a dramatic drop in the number of yellow perch surviving their first year, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Despite the fish fries, we are still fortunate to have such a beautiful lake culture. Hopefully, it will continue through whatever is to come. Maybe there will be Asian carp fries in the future.

Until then, all we can do is report these carp to the DNR if found, resist dumping leftover bait into the lake and educate others about how to be proactive.

Our most important task, however, is to take care of what we have. Do not litter. It is cliché, but true. Fish and birds get tangled in trash.

Pick up the trash or volunteer with environmental groups like Alliance for the Great Lakes. The organization’s next beach cleanup, “Adopt a Beach,” is Sept. 25, at the Atwater, Bayview, Bradford, Grant Park and McKinley Park beaches.

Lake Michigan is a huge and powerful body of water, influencing the weather, smell and culture of Milwaukee. It is naturally beautiful, so let’s do our best to keep it that way.

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