The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

New Tools Debut in Asian Carp Fight Just as the Fish Get Reinforcements

By JoshMogerman in News on May 28, 2011 7:00PM

Asian carp caught in Missouri this week is one for the record books [Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation]
This week the State and Federal agencies took press for a boat ride to show off the shiny new toys available for the ongoing battle to rebuff Asian carp: underwater cameras, nets with super-tight holes, and a big-honking water gun. They are all part of a $7 million program to bolster the electric barriers put in place by the Army Corps of Engineers near Lockport, which are the main line of defense. Officials say that they are still pretty sure that the barriers are keeping the most storied swimming menace since Jonah’s whale at bay, but the New York Times and a leviathan netted in the Ozarks make clear what is at stake if they are wrong.

While DNA testing on our side of the barrier showing that carp have evaded its charge have been controversial, there is no debate about the results of monitoring on the other side of the barrier, where it is clear that the barbarians are at the gate. According to the AP:

“Since fishing resumed following the spring ice thaw on the waterways, crews have landed 9,862 Asian carp below the barrier -- already exceeding the 6,082 caught in 2010, said Chris McCloud, spokesman for the Illinois DNR.”
That’s 103 tons of silver and big head carp since March.

A Chicago News Cooperative article that ran in the New York Times implies that the history of the electric barrier itself shows that the Corps’ efforts may be missing the bigger picture. It was originally built to stop the movement of another invasive species: the round goby. We have covered the mess that millions of these bug-eyed fish have made in Lake Michigan. The barrier was conceived to keep them from doing similar damage to America’s inland waterways, but did not come into operation quickly enough to stop them. Nonetheless, wildlife officials quickly gravitated to the concept to rebuff silver and bighead carp moving through the same canals as the gobies had exited.

That detail is not lost on Great Lakes advocates who have long noted that the focus on Asian carp ignores the other plants, animals and viruses moving through the Chicago waterways. There are numerous studies investigating the possibilities of replacing the electric barrier with something physical to finally end the movement of all invasive species between the Mississippi River system and Great Lakes (and the annual multimillion dollar price tag that comes with the problem). We just hope that the talk turns to action faster than the carp can swim. Judging from the record-breaking 106 pound monster caught in Missouri this week, we will need more than water guns to fend off these brutes.