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Asian carp discovered 9 miles from Lake Michigan

An Illinois fisherman pulled a live Asian carp from the Illinois Waterway just nine miles from Lake Michigan triggering a mandatory two weeks of intensive search in the waters for more. 

A gill net snagged the invasive silver carp in the Illinois Waterway below T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam, approximately nine miles away from Lake Michigan on June 22, 2017, marking the second time in eight years that a bighead or silver carp has been found above the electric dispersal barriers. The fish was 28 inches in length and weighed approximately eight pounds. It has been sent to Southern Illinois University for additional analysis.

Asian carp species are a significant threat to the economic and environmental wellbeing of the Great Lakes. Were a reproducing population to reach and develop in Lake Michigan the results would be disastrous and irreversible. According to the National Wildlife Federation, adult Asian carp have no natural predators in North America and females lay approximately half a million eggs each time they spawn.

Adults can grow to nearly 100 pounds and prey on native species such as ciscos, bloaters, and yellow perch. Native species like largemouth bass have been seen preying on young Asian carp, but they cannot compete with the sheer number of offspring. Lake trout and walleye populations will decrease as a result of the collapsing native food web.

The Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study and drafted plans for action in the Illinois Waterways beyond the existing measures to prevent the silver, bighead, and black carp species from reaching the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, the Trump administration scuttled the release of the plan leaving states reeling for answers and help with the growing threat. No follow up date is available.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources cautions that while the discovery is concerning it does not offer demonstrable proof that a reproducing population exists above the barriers or in Lake Michigan itself.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder responded to the news on Facebook.

“The discovery of a silver carp – one of the most harmful species of invasive carp – just 9 miles from Lake Michigan underscores the urgency of the threat posed by these damaging fish. We must not wait to stop invasive carp from getting into Lake Michigan and irreparably damaging Michigan’s signature natural resource, our Great Lakes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already identified the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Illinois as a critical pinch point for stopping invasive carp. That study and much-needed funding for the Great Lakes must remain a national priority. Michigan will continue to innovate and collaborate with other states to meet this very real threat because we owe it to future generations not to become complacent.”