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Photo: An Asian Carp Was Just Found Near Lake Michigan, While Trump Looks To Cut Great Lakes Funds

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 23, 2017 9:15PM

The silver-carp troublemaker caught on Thursday. Photo via the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

At the same time that President Donald Trump has proposed gargantuan cuts to a fund that in part helps combat invasive species in the Great Lakes, a live, silver Asian carp was discovered on Thursday a mere nine miles from Lake Michigan, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The carp, which in sufficient numbers could cause great harm to non-native habitats, was captured by a commercial fisherman past a barrier system designed to prevent invasive species from reaching the Lakes, about two miles from the T.J. O'Brien Lock and Dam in the Calumet River, according to the AP. It measured 28 inches in length and weighed about 8 pounds, according to the IDNR.

Carp are "are voracious eaters, able to consume 5 to 20 percent of their body weight each day," Fisheries and Oceans Canada said, according to NPR. That huge appetite means that plankton, necessary for other aquatic life to survive, becomes in perilously short supply.

The IDNR meanwhile made clear in a statement that the discovery doesn't mean "a reproducing population of Asian carp" has developed beyond the electric barriers, but per a contingency protocol, there will be two weeks of " intense sampling" around the area where the silver carp was found.

Such sightings are apparently uncommon. "In eight consecutive years of intensive monitoring
and fish sampling in the Chicago Area Waterway System, this is the second time a bighead or silver carp has been found above the electric dispersal barriers," the department wrote. The previous occurrence was in 2010.

However, Dan Egan, who has written extensively about Great Lakes preservation, wrote on Friday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the carp breach was "an indication that the [barrier] system, which has a history of power outages and does not operate at a strength high enough to repel small fish, isn’t up to the job of keeping the voracious carp from invading the world’s largest freshwater system."

The invasive-carp catch happens at a time when lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, are trying to get Trump to pull back on his proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Funds—which would slash the initiative by 97 percent. Trump is also sitting on a plan that "involves modifying a navigation lock on Chicago canal system," according to Egan.

That proposed canal system however faces some local opposition from businesses interests here in Illinois. Indeed, Sen. Tammy Duckworth seemed all too aware of that political landscape in a rather noncommittal statement on Friday. "While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service increases its monitoring of the area and conducts a thorough analysis, my office will continue to work closely with Illinois businesses, advocates and communities to identify the most appropriate path forward," she said.

T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam / Wikipedia