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Asian carp may have breached barrier

November 20, 2009 at 10:04 PM

AP Environmental Writer

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Asian carp may have breached an electronic barrier designed to prevent the giant invaders from upsetting the ecosystem in the Great Lakes and jeopardizing a $7 billion sport fishery, officials said Friday.

Scientists recently collected 32 DNA samples of Asian carp between the barrier and Lake Michigan in waterways south of Chicago, although the fish have yet to be spotted in the area, said Maj. Gen. John Peabody of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

If the feared bighead and silver carp have got through the $9 million barrier, the only remaining obstacle between the carp and Lake Michigan is a navigational lock on the Calumet River. Some DNA was found as close as 1 mile south of the lock and 8 miles south of the lake.

Still, federal officials insisted a Great Lakes invasion was not inevitable.

“We’re going to keep throwing everything we possibly can at them to keep them out,” said Cameron Davis, senior Great Lakes adviser to Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Asian carp escaped from Southern fish farms into the Mississippi River during 1990s flooding and have been migrating northward since.

The monstrous creatures can exceed 4 feet long and 100 pounds. They consume up to 40 percent of their body weight daily in plankton, starving out smaller and less aggressive competitors.

Aside from decimating species prized by anglers and commercial fishers, Asian carp are known to leap from the water at the sound of passing motors and sometimes collide with boaters.

It is not known how the carp would fare in the chilly Great Lakes, which are different ecosystems than rivers, Davis said.

A worst-case scenario envisions them spreading “like a cancer cell,” he said, eventually dominating a fishery already damaged by zebra mussels, sea lamprey and other exotic pests.

In 2002, the Army Corps placed an electronic device on the Chicago San itary and Ship Canal, a man-made waterway south of the city that forms part of a linkage between the Mississippi and Lake Michigan.

A second, more powerful device went online this year. Both emit electrical pulses designed to repel the carp or give them a non-lethal jolt.

David Lodge, a University of Notre Dame invasive species expert, confirmed the presence of DNA of bighead and silver carp in the Cal-Sag Channel, between the canal to the Calumet River and in the river itself, which flows into Lake Michigan.

Further testing will be done in the area, said Col. Vincent Quarles, the Army Corps’ Chicago district commander.

The newer electronic device is scheduled to be deactivated for maintenance in early December. Officials plan then to treat a 6-mile section of the canal with a fish toxin called rotenone to prevent Asian carp from advancing.

Environmental groups called for tougher action, including closure of all Illinois gateways and locks leadi ng to Lake Michigan. That would draw opposition from barge companies that haul cargo on the canal.

“If we don’t close the locks, we are waving the white flag and allowing one of the greatest ecological tragedies to occur,” said Jennifer Nalbone of Great Lakes United.

Even if the carp reach the lake, it might be possible to limit their spread with methods such as sterilization.

“We should not assume that all is lost,” Lodge said.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Seems like I read somewhere that Asian and Bighead carp do better in cold water habitats than rivers. If that holds true, the big lakes have a problem.

Posted by JMcCullum on 11/21 at 09:08 AM

Isn’t the Illinois river’s sport fishing improving despite the carp being there? I think Jeff Lampe had an article earlier this year on that subject.

Guess they should get rid of all the brown trout too.

Posted by illin on 11/21 at 05:48 PM

Let’s hope our officials have the responsibility to do everything possible to prevent the carp from advancing.  Even if that means the Chicago area has to find a better way to take care of their sanitation.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/21 at 08:18 PM

In 2002 the first electrical barrier went online.
It was immediately known that it would be inadequate.
I would bet it’s inadequacey was known even before it went online.
Earlier THIS YEAR - SEVEN YEARS LATER, the second barrier goes online, and already needs to be shut down for “maintenance”.

“We’re going to keep throwing everything we possibly can at them to keep them out,” said Cameron Davis, senior Great Lakes adviser to Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency.”

When, Mr. Davis, did you start “throwing everything we possibly can at them” ??
Seems to me that these efforts were ill concieved afterthoughts that were dragged down by political wrangling, and did not garner a sense of urgency among the necessary proponents at your agency in order to propel them past the political buffoonery that is the state of Illinois.

Too little, too late.

You and your agency allowed these efforts to sink in a quagmire of inaction.

Electrical barriers should have been in use years ago, and much further downstream when it was first identified that these fish were progressing throughout the Mississippi drainage.

You get an “F”. An epic “F”.

The geographical point that these fish have reached guarantees their eventual presence in the Great Lakes, if not through the canal system, then overland by way of the inevitable flooding of the DesPlaines River, cultural stockings, or unwitting “bucket transportation”.

Why were these fish even allowed into the country in a fertile form to begin with?

Oh yes, The Environmental Protection Agency is guilty of a failure of epic proportions.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/21 at 10:33 PM

One follow up comment;
Anything thay tell us at this point about “keeping them out” is just lip-service.
It was known that they were coming, and they are here.
The thought that they can been kept out, is ancient history, but it is at this point that the really obscene amounts of (our) money will be thrown at the problem. You see, the lip-service needs to be lined with gold for it to take.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/21 at 10:45 PM

Political lobbying by the catfish farmers in the south were responsible for these and other invading carp being imported.  More than one Fish & Wildlife employee’s careers went down in flames fighting the importations.  Ted Williams, the oudoor writer not the late ball player, wrote an excellent article on the topic…probably about 10-12 years ago. 
The next time you eat pond-raised catfish, thank the catfish farmers for importing the jumping carp and many other invasive, harmful species.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/22 at 11:52 AM

Non native fish that do not compete directly with gamefish are bad. But voracious four foot long toothy musky are allowed to swim in the
Kaskaskia bellow Shelbyville and everyone is cool with it.

Posted by illin on 11/22 at 02:37 PM

illin, something tells me you haven’t had much time around waters that hold asian carp.the state didn’t spend 9 million on a barrier because they might do a little damage.i’d trade you those musky for these carp any day of the week.if you don’t believe me put your boat in at havana il and see what happens.anyone with a bit of sense knew from the start that the barrier wouldn’t work,i don’t think they’ll find anything to stop their spread.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/22 at 10:27 PM

cool now we can snag at lake michigan

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/22 at 11:51 PM

Bass that is partially my point. These fish will not be stopped, so why waste millions trying to stop them under the excuse that they are invasive. All the while there are many other invasive species which are put into our waters by the same entities. Most of which compete directly with our native game fish.
I understand the problem with the jumping, that seems to be a valid argument. But damaging the fishery excuse does not seem to hold weight to me.

Posted by illin on 11/23 at 05:23 PM

Get ready boys because if your on the river next week our gonna see a bunch of carp floating. They are gonna get their first taste of rotanon. Should be interesting to see how effective this will be on the asian carp…..

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/27 at 05:48 PM

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