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Threat of Asian Carp Breach Just 35 Miles Shy of Lake Michigan

Chicago River

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.

Image from Antonio Bovino (AntoniO BovinO) on the flickr Creative Commons

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.weatherspoon Jon D Weatherspoon

    Seems the blame is being laid upon the Corps. It’s widely accepted that the USACE has made many grievous and erroneous decisions, but rather than assail and saddle the Corps with the responsibility to address or resolve this growing concern of the sliver carp plague…why not redirect a “dare” if you will to the lab boys & girls?

    There’s got to be an inroad through an agent in the biological process that may effectively be used to curtail the rampant spread. Researchers have been able to render other species infertile with the introduction of “agents” that to my knowledge have not led to greater harm to other flora and fauna.

    There’s also the consideration of the two species of alien vegetarians as food and fertilizer. I ponder the 4 of the 5 ‘W’s that someone will take advantage and actually establish a new branch on the tree of the fisheries industry. Common Sense…while a lost art due much in part to Govt over-regulation(s) needs to be cast aside. I see harvesting operations, processing plants and logistics opportunities that are about as “shovel ready” as can ever be imagined. Some may have already investigated this avenue and have hit the stone wall erected by the EPA and green PETA bunch, I’d suspect. Common sense says EXTERMINATE or voraciously consume these unwanted, threatening fish.

    Solution was simpler when the problem first reared its ugly head, but now the call for ACTION beckons well above more time wasted with USACE planning.

    Just “Get ‘er Done!…and done now. Pretty simple to make a major reduction in the prolific numbers that the 2 species of carp are able to produce through spawning recruitment. There’s jobs to actually be created and money to be made while solving a significant concern.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dave.mull1 Dave Mull

      This makes a lot of sense. Instead of a costly electrical barrier, why not raise a gill net? I’m of the opinion the carp are inevitably going to get in. I don’t think it’s the end, though, rather an opportunity for game fish to eat lots of baby carp.
      The Great Lakes as a whole (other than Lake Superior) are one big exotic aquarium. The whole system is less than 10,000 years old. Nature seems able to always find a balance, and the fishing, for those who ignore or are able to take all the bad news in stride, remains pretty incredible.

  • Pacifico Perea

    The alarm was sounded more than a decade ago by fisheries scientists monitoring the Mississippi River system, nobody listened. Asian carp are inevitable consequence of poor bureaucratic decision-making at all levels of gov’t. Not just the Corps. There have been no biological agent in the fisheries world to my knowledge that has successfully stemmed a full-scale invasion of this magnitude. Sure, you can curtail alewive with Pacific salmon, but you are no slaves to that artificial system for as long as you are willing to pump $$$ millions to sustain it. Nothing eats (enough) fish that has the potential to grow up to 75 pounds and has population numbers approaching hundreds of millions of progeny in the next few decades. The electric fence was a mere band-aid.