Asian carp may just be a few more weeks and tests away from being discovered in the Great Lakes. Scientists fear the fish’s entrance into the Great Lakes basin could significantly decrease the population of native fish since they are voracious eaters.
Just last month, 17 of 57 samples revealed positive detection of silver carp. The samples were taken from the Chicago River near the downtown area. DNA evidence of the carp’s presence is detected from things a fish sheds, such as mucus and feces. Some have doubts that a positive DNA sample indicates the presence of a live fish, but the scientists who developed the means of testing for carp say live fish are the only explanation for so many positive samples at different times of year, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Because of these DNA evidence, some believe the carp have breached an electronic fish barrier put in place by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, 35 miles downstream from Lake Michigan.
As lawmakers berate the USACE for not doing enough to stop the invasive species’ spread from the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes via the Chicago Waterway System, an artificial connection, the Corps announced it would send fishing crews to fish for the species at the North Shore Channel of the Chicago River and part of the river in downtown Chicago.
The Corps is in the middle of a multi-year study to determine how to block the carp and any other invasive species, but lawmakers do not think the time it has taken already is acceptable. Legislation is pending against the Corps to find a solution in a shorter time frame.
Asian carp were originally imported to the United States in the 1980s to keep aquaculture facilities clean. If they get into Lake Michigan and spread throughout the basin, experts believe they could cause great damage to commercial, tribal and sport fisheries valued at more than $7 billion annually (a 2008 figure), according to the American Sportfishing Association.