The Associated Press has reported that for the first time a voracious, Asian bighead carp was found beyond electric barriers meant to keep the dangerous species out of the Great Lakes!
This specimen of this rapacious and invasive species – which was captured in Lake Calumet on Chicago’s South Side, about six miles from Lake Michigan — measured at 3-foot-long and 20-lbs. John Rogner, assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, expressed his concerns:
“The threat to the Great Lakes depends on how many have access to the lakes, which depends on how many are in the Chicago waterway right now.”
Asian Carp can grow to 4 feet and 100 pounds and eat up to 40 percent of their body weight daily. Scientists and fishermen fear that if the carp become established in the lakes, they could starve out popular sport species and ruin the region’s $7 billion fishing industry.
Environmental groups said the discovery leaves no doubt that other Asian carp have breached barriers designed to prevent them from migrating from the Mississippi River system to the Great Lakes. This system includes two electric barriers, which serve as a last line of defense.
Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, claims that this discovery only proves the government needs to act faster in protecting its waterways, but he is not surprised:
“Is it disturbing? Extraordinarily. Is it surprising? No… invaders will stop at nothing short of bricks and mortar, and time is running short to get that protection in place.”
In Michigan, officials renewed their demand to shut down two shipping locks on the Chicago waterways that could provide a path to Lake Michigan. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice rejected the state’s request to order the locks closed, but state Attorney General Mike Cox said he was considering more legal action.
A Chicago-based industry coalition called Unlock Our Jobs said the discovery of a single carp did not justify closing the locks. Doing so would damage the region’s economy and kill jobs without guaranteeing that carp would be unable to reach the lakes, spokesman Mark Biel said:
“A few isolated incidents of Asian carp in this small section of the Illinois Waterway does not mean existing barriers have failed,” said Biel, also executive director of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois. “Additional regulatory controls and river barriers should be explored before permanent lock closure is even considered.”
Like most invasive species, the Asian carp was introduced with the hope of doing good. Originally introduced to clean catfish ponds and in experiments to filter sewage, the creatures eventually escaped during floods in the 1990s and headed into adjoining rivers.
Eventually, they reached the tributaries of the Mississippi River system, which includes the Missouri River, the Ohio River and the Illinois River. Officials said they’ll use electro-fishing and netting to remove any Asian carp from the lake. We can only hope that this is not a case of too little… too late.