Asian carp found creeping closer to Lake Michigan

Springfield, Ill. — Concern from carp watchers grew recently when crews from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service discovered two juvenile Asian carp in the Illinois River – 12 miles closer to Lake Michigan than others of that size previously were witnessed.

Meanwhile, members of Congress are prodding federal officials to work faster on technological roadblocks that would prevent carp from reaching Lake Michigan – and eventually the other Great Lakes – through Chicago-area waterways.

On the river battle front, the USFWS reported in November that two small silver carp about 6 inches in size were discovered in the Marseilles Pool of the Illinois near Seneca. The finding brings the leading edge of juvenile Asian carp about 66 miles closer to Lake Michigan than it was at the beginning of 2015.

Officials say there is still 76 miles of water, three locks and dams, and electric dispersal barriers between the juvenile carp and Lake Michigan.

The USFWS monitoring for juvenile Asian carp in the Illinois River, Des Plaines River, and the Chicago Area Waterway System takes place through sampling identified by the 2015 Monitoring and Response Plan by state and federal agencies, and research organizations.

Experts said the Asian carp is known for its appetite, and competition for food can create havoc in the marine ecosystem. The carp can grow up to 7 feet and could weigh up to 110 pounds. A carp eats up to 20 percent of its body weight daily. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, out of the four species – bighead, black, grass, and silver carp – the one that can cause particularly extensive damage is the silver carp. This fish species breeds quickly and feeds on plankton needed by larval fish and mussels.

This could be a big problem for Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, which is home to a fishing industry worth an estimated $7 billion. The size of a silver carp and its ability to jump out of water in large groups also can be dangerous for unsuspecting boaters.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan, urged the Obama administration to take “immediate action” to respond to the threat of Asian carp after the latest discovery.

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