Asian Carp Visit Chicago

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Photo credit: WGN

This was a big week for Asian Carp awareness here in Chicagoland. Scientific studies, legislation and even carp-consumption have served to inform and update the public on this troublesome invasive species.

Today the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans released their risk assessment of Asian Carp infiltrating the Great Lakes. The study names the Chicago Area Waterway as the most likely entry point and affirms that they can and will spread to the other Great Lakes. The most noteworthy finding is that as few as 10 female and male fish would provide a 50% chance of establishing a population within the basin of a Great Lake; this is significantly less than previous estimates.

“This study is a clear warning that our beautiful Lake Michigan is at serious risk from Asian Carp,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.   “If these dangerous invaders get into our Lake, they are likely to explode in population and wreak havoc on the Great Lakes ecosystem.   Fortunately, there are solutions that will keep the carp out and give us healthier waters here in the Chicago region, but time is short and we need to work urgently to plan and implement these solutions before it’s too late.”

Yesterday, the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, which consists of federal and state agencies working together to stop the spread of Asian Carp, held a public meeting to provide updates on their monitoring programs. This update included recent legislation affecting the Army Corps’ GLMRIS study, which is focused on solutions to prevent the transfer of invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basins.

The Corps’ most recent study reported nearly 15% positive results for Silver Carp DNA in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), a significantly higher percentage than previous monitoring results.

The recent passage of the Stop Invasive Species Act was confirmation that, like the public, legislators are concerned about the urgency of this problem. The act was signed into law on Friday as part of the massive federal transportation, student loan and flood insurance bill. The bill pushes the Army Corps to expedite the GLMRIS study within the next 18 months. The act also mandates an interim report within 90 days outlining how they will complete the study.

Chicagoans also got a chance to sample some delicious carp sliders at the Taste of Chicago at a booth co-hosted by the Department of Natural Resources and Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop. Commercial fishing isn’t a permanent solution to the problem of aquatic invasives but it is a helpful control measure to help communities already impacted by the nuisance species.

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