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More on Invasive Species
Asian Carp Kill Launched; Gov. Urges Closure of Lake Michigan Gateways
Officials treated about six miles of the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal with a deadly fish poison Wednesday night to prevent invasive Asian carp from breaching an electrical barrier that must be shut down for routine maintenance.
In a related action, the Alliance joined several other conservation groups in supporting Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s call for legal action to prevent the jumbo-sized jumping carp from entering the Great Lakes.
Granholm and Lt. Gov. John Cherry on Wednesday sent a letter to Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox calling on him “to vigorously pursue every legal tool” to keep Asian carp out of the lakes—including the closure of navigational locks in Chicago that are the only obstacle standing between the invasive fish and Lake Michigan.
In a separate letter to Cox, the conservation groups stated their support for Granholm's request to "take legal action to close, at least temporarily, all Illinois locks providing access to Lake Michigan until the state of Illinois and federal agencies can demonstrate that Asian carp will not swim into Lake Michigan.”
The call for legal action comes nearly two weeks after the Alliance and its partner groups asked state and federal authorities to immediately close navigational locks in response to new DNA data indicating that the invasive Asian carp had breached an electric fence and were only miles from Lake Michigan. Yet no action has been taken to close the locks—the last barriers between the invasive fish and Lake Michigan.
“Today we can literally slam the door to protect the lakes from the Asian carp. If we don't, our kids and grandkids will never know the lakes as we see them now,” said Joel Brammeier, Alliance acting president. “Invasive species don't come with second chances. It is imperative that state and federal leaders take emergency action to close the locks and protect the Great Lakes.”
State and federal agencies on Wednesday night applied the plant-based toxin, rotenone, to kill fish—including Asian carp—along sections of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and Cal-Sag Channel in preparation for performing maintenance on the electric fence. A host of representatives from federal, regional, state and local agencies today begin removing the dead carp and other fish from the canal, trucking them to a landfill for disposal.
Rotenone is not harmful to people and breaks down rapidly into carbon dioxide and water. An antidote will be added to the water after the treatment to speed the breakdown of the poison.
Known to batter boaters and even knock them into the water at the sound of a passing motor, Asian carp are voracious filter feeders that can grow to more than 4 feet long, weigh up to 100 pounds and quickly dominate a body of water by gobbling up the same food that sustains native fish populations.
The notorious carp, specifically silver and bighead carp, can comprise as much as 95 percent of the fish biomass in locations where they now dominate. The electric barrier is the only protection against carp entering Lake Michigan via the Sanitary & Ship Canal, which is located some 20 miles south of Lake Michigan. DNA evidence suggests the Asian carp are already very close to the electric barrier in the canal and are also present in the nearby Des Plaines River, I & M canal and Calumet Sag Canal.
The carp may already have breached the barrier, however. On Nov. 20, officials announced that new testing showed the presence of Asian carp DNA in the Calumet River, north of the electric barrier and adjacent to the O’Brien Lock just six miles south of Lake Michigan.
If the carp make their way into the Great Lakes, they could devastate the region's $7 billion fishing and recreation industry and permanently alter how recreational boaters, anglers and tourists use and enjoy the lakes and their many tributaries.
The Alliance last year issued a report calling for physically separating the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins, a recommendation that is gaining traction as the Asian carp close in on Lake Michigan. The two watersheds are joined by the Sanitary and Ship Canal, an artificial connection engineered more than a century ago to carry Chicago’s wastewater away from Lake Michigan.
See updates on Asian carp response plan >>