Asian Carp Invading the Great Lakes

Two species of Asian carp, the bighead and the silver, were imported in the US in the 1970s by catfish farmers to eat algae in ponds. In flood in the 1990s, Asian trout escaped in the Mississippi River basin have been multiplying wildly and heading north. A few days ago an 20 pound Asian bighead carp was caught by a fisherman in Illinois’s Lake Calumet, on the South Side of Chicago.  That is north of the electric fences installed to stop the carp and only six miles from Lake Michigan.

Carp-Pocalypse: The Great Lakes Asian Carp Invasion Begins?

There’s an underwater war underway in the Midwest – an offensive to keep the ravenous Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. On Wednesday, it became clear: The carp are winning.

Late Wednesday night, the Associated Press reported that federal officials have, for the first time ever, discovered a carp swimming beyond the multiple electric barriers that were erected along the Chicago waterways to keep the fish out of the Great Lakes system. A 20-pound bighead carp was caught by a fisherman in Illinois’s Lake Calumet, on the South Side of Chicago.

That’s beyond the electric fence, and only six miles from Lake Michigan.

For decades, the carp have been making their way up the Mississippi, and then through Illinois rivers and canals that form an artificial link between the Mississippi Basin and the Great Lakes. The problems with this migration stem from the fact that the carp can grow into 4-foot-long, 100-pound monsters who devour 40 percent of their body weight daily. They destroy ecosystems by gorging themselves, and starving out other species.

Plenty of people seemed surprised by Wednesday’s news; a little less clear was now what was to be done next.

The Army Corps of engineers is studying alternatives to the current electric barriers, but it says it will take years to complete the analysis. Meanwhile others like Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, is demanding that the connections between the river systems and the Great Lakes be closed permanently.

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