Where are the Asian Carp?

Where are the Asian Carp?

Sea lamprey, alewives, zebra mussels are just a few of the invasive species harming our lakes both ecologically and economically. The health of the Great Lakes is seriously threatened by problems from invasive species. Over 180 species have already been introduced in the Great Lakes and cost the region an estimated $5 billion every year. Now the Asian carp is nearing Lake Michigan in several locations. Environmental DNA testing indicates the presence of Asian carp beyond the two electric barriers installed in the Illinois River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prevent the Asian carp from entering the Chicago Shipping canal. Results from April 1st show the presence of the Asian carp in the O’Brien Lock and Dam area. (See map on page 5). On April 30, 2010 there was a positive Environmental DNA hit in the Calumet Sag Channel. On May 20, a second rotenone application will be applied in a two-mile stretch to remove any Asian carp. A net will be placed under the channel before and during the application to collect any fish killed during the event. The O’Brien lock will be closed for 5-7 days during the treatment time.

There are two species of Asian carp making their way to Lake Michigan-bighead carp and silver carp. Both species are well suited for our climate. Asian carp reproduce quickly and can eat 40% of their body weight daily, taking food needed for our native fish. In Illinois, the Asian carp population has doubled every year since it has been in the Illinois River. Bighead carp can grow to four and five feet and weigh up to 100 pounds. The black carp also poses an additional threat- they eat primarily mollusks potentially harming threatened native mussels and sturgeon. Black carp can grow to seven feet in length and weigh 150 pounds.

If the Asian carp does make it to Lake Michigan it will likely:

  • Out compete native fish populations-lake perch, whitefish and walleye and become the dominant species
  • Hurt our economy by harming the Great Lakes’ fish and birds that generate over $15 billion in spending annually on fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, and boating
  • Make boating unsafe
  • Impact habitat for waterfowl
  • Spread quickly to all the Great Lakes, impacting the US and Canada


What is ultimately needed is to sever the connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins. This is the only way to permanently prevent Asian carp-and importantly other devastating invasive species like the snake head fish that could head our way from swimming up river and taking over our Great Lakes. Right now, Congress has given the Army Corps of Engineers, who is charged with implementing the fix, funding to study numerous options. However, no other options guarantee the certainty that severing the connection does. And when it comes to the Great Lakes we won’t stand for a gamble. While we study option after option and debate option after option the carp are swimming.

Action is needed now! We need Congress to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan solely for severing the connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River and act quickly to implement that plan. Disappointingly, our Members of Congress are doing no such thing. That is where we need you-their constituent- to ask them to do so. Call, write, or email your Member of Congress. You can contact the Capital switch board by calling (202)224-3121 or www.congress.org/congressorg/ directory/congdir.tt



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.