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Asian carp raises its ugly head again – literally!

A Bighead Asian carp has been found closer to Lake Michigan than ever before and it’s sure to rekindle raucous concerns and conflicting recommendations in the Great Lakes region that accounts for one-third of the nation’s recreational boating fleet.

The discovery of a 34.6-inch long, 19.6-pound bighead is the first found past an elaborate electric barriers system installed by the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent any Asian carp from getting into Lake Michigan and, subsequently, the rest of the Great Lakes system.

Both the bighead and silver Asian carp are the two most aggressive types of Asian carp, and thus cause the most concern. They escaped from Southern fish farms into the Mississippi River during 1990s flooding and have been migrating northward since. They’re voracious eaters that could literally destroy the $7 billion recreational fishery in the Great Lakes by consuming the native species prized by anglers. The carp can grow to 4-feet long and 100 pounds and they can consume up to 40 percent of their body weight every day. Moreover, when disturbed by a passing boat, they can literally jump into the boat! Now, fish jumping into your boat might sound pretty good – except the problem is people have reportedly been injured, even knocked out of the boat, by these leapers.

The carp has previously set off demands, including a failed lawsuit by the state of Michigan, to permanently close three locks in the Chicago area that lead to Lake Michigan, thus sealing off the carp from the lakes. But, an estimated 7,000 boats use the locks for transit to and from Chicago River boat yards, and hundreds more boaters lock thru annually to access the many marinas located along the Illinois Waterway that leads to the Mississippi.

It’s disappointing that the electrical barrier isn’t a 100 percent solution, although it is very effective. Calls for lock closings are bound to be heard again. But permanent closings would be overkill, unnecessarily putting boat yards and marinas out of business and cutting off the only waterway out of the western Great Lakes. What’s needed is a balanced approach now. For example, the Great Lakes Boating Federation has suggested “less-frequent use of the Chicago-area locks.” That certainly could be part of a balanced plan.

 The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has done an excellent job of monitoring and dealing with the situation. Earlier this year, IDNR used a fish toxin, rotenone, to make certain no carp moved passed the electric barrier while it was turned off for mandatory maintenance. The measured use of toxin could be part of a balanced plan. Moreover, IDNR has used contract-fisherman for various carp-related monitoring programs. Increased use of such fisherman to net more heavily below the electric barrier could also be a piece of the balance plan.

The discovery of the bighead past the barrier is cause for alarm for all Great Lakes boaters, anglers, dealers and marinas. Everyone from environmental groups to fish biologists agrees very aggressive action is needed to insure the carp doesn’t reach Lake Michigan. A balanced, considered plan using the prevalent talents and resources is the right way – permanently closing Chicago’s locks isn’t.


8 comments on “Asian carp raises its ugly head again – literally!

  1. Harold DeHart

    Once again, the comments made by Norm Schultz are self serving for an industry. Closing the locks is overkill, he states. However, what we have here is the proverbial traffic light that’s put up after many people are keilled or maimed. Closinig the locks, while a more suitable permanent solution is found makes the most sense. Realizing the economic losses that the Chicago area would result, pales in comparison to the economic losses that will be incurred by the Great Lake states and Canada. For once, we should be looking at the big picture and not the small window of Illinois. Does not the BP debacle teach something about this scenario. It will be an economic tragedy if these carp are not stopped, perhaps not as bad as the Gulf situation but nonetheless devastating!

  2. dave

    and some people wonder why we are hesitant to “introduce” asian shellfish on the Chesapeake….

    close the locks and be done with it….where is the outrage with letting those southern fish farms that just had to have these critters off the hook and at what expense…

    Aggressive action ? or the smart, long term action?

    Let’s do it once, correctly and end this now…

  3. dave boso

    Well as I have said you can take all the action you can, and still some Idiot with a bucket full of carp will dump them in that or any lake

  4. Bill R

    Mr. Schultz’ comments are wrong-headed, at best.
    There is no “balanced, considered plan” available that makes sense, and time has run out.
    Asian carp will emasculate the great lakes marine habitat. Full Stop!
    Close the locks now!

  5. C. Moore

    All this out rage over a carp who has migrated up the Mississippi past how many lock & dams not to mention them passing St. louis, Peoria, etc. How many people in St Louis have been killed or injured? Is the eco system devistated & wipped out on the whole Ill., Missouri, Tennesse, Ohio, & Mississsippi River systems. Really??? Will the birds along these water ways not pick up the fish eggs will migrating to & fro & deposit them in far distant waters?? Why is it always about Chicago???

  6. dave

    C Moore….if the fish can thrive in the brackish waters and eat it’s way north, what do you think it will do in the crystal clear waters of the Great Lakes, with an unlimited and easy source of food…

    Thus shut it out of the Lakes, period…anything else is a failure to protect one of the greatest assets in the country…

  7. Jim

    C. Moore says-“Why is it always about Chicago?” An interesting question for sure considering current considerations in our country.

  8. C. Moore

    if you’re going to shut the locks then you have to also shoot all the water foul that use the Ill, Tenn. Miss. Rivers etc. as birds are a leading reason on how fish get into new eco systems.
    Maybe these carp will eat the alewives that were brought in decades ago through the Wellington canal orthe lampryes…. Most native species are gone from the great lakes or sharing with invading species….Do you think Samon are native to the Lakes?? Not!!

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