So it happened. The first Asian carp was found past the electric barrier designed specifically to keep them out of Lake Michigan. And the thing weighed 20 pounds. After several suits against Illinois to close the shipping waterways that separate the Mississippi River and Great Lakes water basins and losing every time, including in the Supreme Court, Michigan’s worst fears have materialized.
“It’s important evidence, and the more information we know about where the carp are, the better … that’s the reason we’re intensifying the effort [to find any Asian carp beyond the barriers].” — Chris McCloud, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
At one point there were no Asian carp in the Mississippi. In the 1970’s they were imported by catfish farmers to remove algae from their ponds. In the ‘90s, many of the catfish farms flooded and some Asian carp escaped into the Mississippi River basin. Now they are everywhere, eat voraciously, and pose a serious threat to the food chain and fishing industry of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
Look for this discovery to intensify the battles between Michigan’s government and environmental groups, that want Chicago’s shipping corridors permanently closed, with commercial companies like tour boat operators, barge companies, and the recreational boating industry. For now, the federal and local response is essentially to build more barriers and keep pouring poison into the water to try and keep the carp from establishing a critical mass to where they would pose a real danger.