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Caught between a carp and a hard place!

It would be funny, if it weren’t so serious. Boating in the Chicago area finds itself threatened . . . by a fish!

Asian carp are mean critters. They grow to 4 feet long, weigh in at 100 pounds and the engine vibrations from passing power boats can cause them to leap into the air, sometimes landing in boats injuring boaters and damaging vessels.

They reportedly escaped from Southern fish farms into the Mississippi River during 1990s flooding. They have migrated northward ever since, reaching into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal just south of the city and very close to where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan. The real fear is that if these carp get into Lake Michigan, and eventually the rest of the Great Lakes, they could fundamentally change the Great Lakes ecosystem by consuming the plankton at the bottom of the food chain, thus wiping out the native fish and a $7 billion annual Great Lakes sport and commercial fishery.  That’s because these carp voraciously consume up to 40 percent of their body weight in plankton daily!

Thus far, the carp’s march north has been halted by an “electric barrier” installed in the Chicago canal by the Army Corps of Engineers and designed to stop the fish with a non-lethal shock. But, last month, officials noted that DNA samples of the Asian carp recently were found between the electric barrier and Lake Michigan, albeit no fish had yet to be spotted in that area. In addition, the Corps had to turn the barrier off recently for maintenance.

It all set off a series of events and a potential legal battle between Illinois and a coalition led by Michigan that includes Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York. Michigan has filed suit to permanently close the locks at Chicago that separate the Chicago River from Lake Michigan, claiming they are the last barrier. Some environmental groups are also pushing federal officials to close the three locks in Chicago.

Chicago area boaters are caught in the cross fire. Certainly no one wants the Asian carp to get into the Great Lakes. On the other hand, the river system is an integral part of boating in Chicago. It’s used recreationally from April to November. Important dealers, marinas and boatyards are located along the waterways and can only be reached from or to Lake Michigan by locking through at Chicago. Thousands of Chicago boaters must lock through to reach winter storage yards or in spring the extensive harbors along Chicago’s lakefront. And, it’s the only water route out of the western Great Lakes to get to or from the Mississippi and points south.

The Great Lakes Boating Federation is calling for a public hearing during which all stakeholders, recreational and commercial, using the Chicago Locks could be heard. GLBF estimates well over 7,000 Chicago area boaters would be adversely affected by any permanent closing of the locks.

“If we can send men to the moon, create the Internet, and grow human organs, we can certainly deal with a fish in better ways than just closing some locks and hurting good boat dealers, marina operators and thousands of boating families,” says Ned Dikmen, GLBF chairman. He’s right! All boating interests in the western Great Lakes should be echoing GLBF’s call for hearings.

To be silent on this issue shouldn’t be an option since both Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. EPA officials say they are looking at all possibilities and have not made any decision about closing the locks.


13 comments on “Caught between a carp and a hard place!

  1. Komrade Karl

    Norm you are off to a good start this year…..great subjects….
    I have been following this subject as it seems we have more of these devistating foreign invaders across the contry. In Florida it ranges from plants, Lovebugs, snakes & fresh water fish & urban coyotees not to mention wild hogs.
    As a previous boater in the Chicago area & great lakes this is as big a threat as the zebra mussels are. This all goes to prove my points in the last subject post. All the Federal government agencies in our country are unable to protect us locally -where everything happens. Everyone needs to start thinking & acting, and get involved LOCALLY. As you may be aware, Last month the Feds approved the dumpping of poison into the shipping channel to kill the carp (they also killed every other kind of fish in the canal). Unfortunately they yielded very little of the targeted fish.
    By the time the Slow moving Fed EPA & Corp act it will be to late.
    By the way there is another way to get to the Illinios river besides going through downtown Chicago. It is the southern chanel that is down near Hammond Indiana. It is truely an industrial route or was 15 year ago when I took it but it does connect the Illinios river to Lake Michigan. I’ve read nothing on if the carp are there- YET.
    The only slight positive is the fish has spawned a new charter fishing business – that being hunting them with bow & arrows. there are many Utube videos of this activity.
    Lets all support the GLBF to get this fish eradicated.

  2. John Wooldridge

    Thanks very much for the overview. We’ve been following this problem as it develops. If the locks are closed permanently between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, the ability for PMM readers to complete the Great Loop, or circumnavigation of the eastern half of the continental United States, will come to a halt. Of course there will always be other cruising destinations for this growing segment of the marine business, But the possibilities are narrowing.

  3. capt charlie

    Another example of this guys wanabe political cronies and their bad decisions. GLBF, NMMA, NMBA etc etc, all over paid quasi boat industry experts without any real dealer expertise. The locks should be closed! No brainer. It’s a boating inconvenience but if the carp enter the great lakes, it will ruin the fishery, which will devastate boat dealers. Over 50% of the vessels sold around the great lakes are for sport fishing.


    Norm, your articles are always interesring! Its good to have the Great Lakes represented. By the way, I , almost bought the 35 Tiara you had. Keep up the GREAT work………. Thanks, Terry

  5. Captain Andrew

    Komarade Karl–instead of pushing your political views and bashing the government, how about offering some specific solutions? I see you didn’t criticize the private company who did not undertake emergency prevention measures to prevent this carp from getting into the waterways.

  6. Bob Betzjetz

    There is no “on the other hand” as you put it. The carp would not be a threat if the city of Chicago had not years ago diverted the chicago river from Lake Michigan and instead built a series of canals so the water would connect to the Mississippi. This is a problem in terms of lake levels as well as what type of creepy fish can make their way north to Lake Michigan. It’s really a giaganic stretch to think that Chicago boaters that use the canal being inconvenienced can in any way compare with the harm to the Great Lakes that this open waterway presents.

  7. Real Boat Dealer

    Here we go again, a propaganda piece for another worthless boat association. On the bright side, show season is around the corner and the dealer expert will get to grace us with his presence. Maybe George should bow down and kiss his ring.

  8. dave boso

    Ain’t gonna help, somebody will let a bunch go in the lake just to see them swim away. Same as with Zebra Mussles, might as well learn to live with them. Find someway a guy can make money by catching them, then don’t regulate catching them, they will get used up.

  9. Komrade Karl

    Capt andy- seeing your calling me out-
    do you mean the LA fish farms that are regulated by the state & federal government, that were overwelmed by floods of the Mississippi River in LA, which is controlled & supervised by the Army Corp of Enginneering, EPA, & etc? one word “Katrina”
    See next quote
    “Flooding of the Mississippi in the late 1990’s allowed the Carp to creep into the Mississippi. From their home in Louisiana, the Carp crept up over dams and locks, past the spirit of Mark Twain” In the middle of July 2002, Eric Slater of the L.A. Times wrote a brief syndicated article about the migration of the Carp toward the Great lakes.
    I wish these agencies, that we fund, would move faster but history shows & tells me that they do not & did not in this case. Eric Slater wrote his article 8 years ago…it would have been nice if someone read the article. Chicago is pretty far up stream from Loiusianna.
    Agian you believe the government has the answers & should be a nannie I like abit more freedom & self reliance & responsibility like the founders of this great country.
    I have to say I do wonder what part of the so called marine industry you are involved with- it doesn’t sound like it has much to do with the recreational portion.
    By the way politically speaking I’m closer to a libertarian than the other 2 parties that are very similar to each over the last 20 years.
    Many folks in Chicago believe that the carp have already breached the locks -I’m with boso put a $$ bounty on them

  10. A Self Employed American

    Komrad Karl—You are attempting to twist and reinterpret Captain Andrews statements. Again you have not addressed the responsibility of the actual entities that handled the carp. Seems like you Komrad Karl, want to blame the public sector while at the same time, not even admit to individual responsibility of the private sector.

    It is clear to me that all you can do is complain and play the blame game instead of offering solutions. If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

  11. dave boso

    I didn’t mean a bounty, keep the Goverment out of it. Off the coast of NC they catch Minhaden, ain’t worth a damn ecept fish meal and some kind of oil, so find out what these things can be used for and there will be a whole new industry….

  12. Komrade Karl

    I’m Blaming them for not reponding quickly & appropriately. I just don’t believe they have done a very good job from the time the carp escaped. In this situation the government knew & approved the importation & what their purpose was. They knew, how & why they escaped. They knew the “private sector” entities responsible why didn’t they engage them to prevent the spread outside LA or at least pay for the cost of containment?
    Why did they let this get to this point is my question & why I feel that it will not be resolved quickly now.
    Our government is suppose to protect us from outside treats & invaders why are there so many of these? Why was an importation permit approved?
    What is your solution Self Employed America? Niether you or Capt Andy offered any solution from what I’ve read. Both just decided to try to bash & paint me as a complainer & to dismiss my point of view even though I back them up with historical facts.
    I have offered solutions from my first comment here. To review: I suggested we all get involved in our own local issues & to support the locals in this situation as they are there on the front line & have the most to lose. I think that was what Norm was asking as well when he suggested that folks call the government agencies involved.
    I love trolls

  13. Concerned Boat Owner

    The solution is simple, but it takes money. Rather then spend money to close the locks and engineer a system that would transport commercial and recreational vessels between waterways, politicians would rather spend the money on layers and lawsuits. Personally, I don’t see how a law suit could ever solve this problem. Less talk, more action. If that would have been the process over the last 19 years, none of these problems would have come up. Water would no longer be diverted from the Great Lakes to the Illinois/Mississippi waterways; invasive species would not be freely swimming between them; and boaters would be happily transversing from lake to river system and vice-versa.

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