A Bighead Carp is Caught in Chicago Area Waterway System; Time for Action is Now

An adult bighead carp has been caught in Lake Calumet along the Chicago Area Waterway System, according to the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee. It is the first one found in the waterway system beyond an electronic fence that is supposed to prevent the fish from entering Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.

Since last year, Great Lakes advocates have been demanding quick action to stop the invasive species from getting into Lake Michigan. The discovery of a nearly three-foot-long fish that weighs almost 20 pounds should be a wake-up call to speed up efforts to hydrologically separate the Mississippi River Basin from the Great Lakes Basins. This is the only viable long-term solution to the Asian carp crisis.

However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said that it will take five to seven years to study this option. Those are years we don’t have. Meanwhile today’s Coordinating Committee press release proclaims that immediate measures are being taken – such as electrofishing and netting. Oh boy!

“This is important evidence and the more information we have about where Asian carp are, the better chance we have of keeping them out of the Great Lakes,” John Rogner, Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) stated in a press release.

Andy Buchsbaum, director of the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation, countered: “If the capture of this live fish doesn’t confirm the urgency of this problem, nothing will. We need to pull out all the stops; this is code red for the Great Lakes.”

Lake Calumet is between the O’Brien Lock and Dam and Lake Michigan and the fish was found about six miles downstream of Lake Michigan by a commercial fisherman working as a sampler for the IDNR. It is the first Asian carp to be found above the electronic barrier and the second to be sited in the CAWS.

“This live bighead carp was caught well beyond the electric fence that was supposed to stop them, only six miles from Lake Michigan,” said Buchsbaum. “There are no other physical barriers before these monsters reach Lake Michigan.”

The clock is ticking, and the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee continues to be less than re-assuring in outlining what it will (or will not) take to confront this threat. It is time the state and federal agencies started showing us that they are acting with urgency and purpose.

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