Search for harmful Asian carp in Chicago area turns up nothing

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis)
Image: Tdk.

Illinois officials announced Monday that a six-week search for Asian carp in Chicago waterways has turned up no sighting of the dreaded fish. The statement comes over a month after electric barriers were placed in local canals to block the fish from entering Lake Michigan

Originally from Asia, the carp have infested portions of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and several Chicago-area waterways. Failing to keep the fish away from the Great Lakes could severely damage the $7 billion fishing industry there. 

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologists, placed netting and electric stunning prods in areas where the carp were most likely to gather, about 25 miles away from Lake Michigan. A six-week search since then has resulted in none of the undesirable silver or bighead carp, but rather over 1,000 common carp and other harmless variations. 

The State of Michigan, along with the Great Lakes States of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York and the Canadian Province of Ontario, has requested an injunction to shut down two Chicago canals leading into lake Michigan. The US Supreme Court has twice rejected that request.

Although no Asian carp has since been found, the Michigan Attorney General still wants the locks closed. "What did they expect? [Illinois'] own court filings say they are not likely to catch Asian carp using nets or electro-fishing," said spokesman John Sellek. Illinois and the White House oppose closing the locks, claiming that doing so would harm the Chicago-area barge and tour boat industries. 

Biologists plan to keep searching for Asian carp over the next three months.