January 03, 2010
States Fight Over Asian Carp Invasion Threat

Time to close the canal connection between the Illinois River and Lake Michigan in order to keep the Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes.

In an urgent effort to close down Chicago-area passages that could allow the unwanted fish to reach Lake Michigan, the State of Michigan is suing the State of Illinois and other entities that govern the waterways here. Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin have filed documents in recent days supporting Michiganís move, and Indiana says it will soon do the same.

My take: the states around the Great Lakes have been seriously slow in stepping to the threat posed by Asian carp. They shouldn't have waited until Asian carp reached several miles from the Great Lakes before getting around to suing the very negligent and irresponsible state of Illinois. This is serious.

Background: Asian carp have been eating their way up the Mississippi River system for years.

Asian carp were originally brought over to clean catfish ponds.

Two species of Asian carp -- the bighead and silver -- were imported by catfish farmers in the 1970's to remove algae and suspended matter out of their ponds. During large floods in the early 1990s, many of the catfish farm ponds overflowed their banks, and the Asian carp were released into local waterways in the Mississippi River basin.

The carp have steadily made their way northward up the Mississippi, becoming the most abundant species in some areas of the River.

They outcompete native fish species that have much more economic value.

Asian Carp are a significant threat to the Great Lakes because they are large, extremely prolific, and consume vast amounts of food. They can weigh up to 100 pounds, and can grow to a length of more than four feet. They are well-suited to the climate of the Great Lakes region, which is similar to their native Asian habitats.

Researchers expect that Asian carp would disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes. Due to their large size, ravenous appetites, and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

The connection between the Mississippi and Lake Michigan has got to be closed.

"We have to take care of this problem permanently," says Marc Gaden of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, a joint U.S.-Canadian commission that coordinates fisheries management. "We need pure biological separation between the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes basin."

Chicago business and political interests do not want to lose easy use of barges for shipping. So there's a fight.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 03 10:20 PM  Environment Invasive Species

Black Death said at January 4, 2010 5:20 AM:

Mike Cox, the Republican Attorney General of Michigan, is running for governor. Not that keeping the Asian carp out of lake Michigan is a bad idea - I like to fish in Lake Michigan - but inquiring minds still like to know.

random said at January 4, 2010 8:11 AM:

Is there any realistic chance of keeping asian carp out of the Great Lakes? They've tried very unsuccessfully to keep other invasive species from spreading (Eurasian Water Milfoil and Zebra Mussels) At what point do we just learn to eat carp?

Mthson said at January 4, 2010 9:29 AM:

James Bowery: White separatism? Really? Do you really exclude people like Richard Feynman and Bruce Lahn?

Bruce said at January 4, 2010 1:12 PM:

Savannah Sole.

"bighead Asian carp began filling his nets several years ago and quickly cut into his ability to make a living.

So the third-generation fisherman changed course. And now the carp are Briney's bread and butter: He focuses his fishing on Asian carp.

The fish weigh at least 15-to-25 pounds each, and some are much larger. They fetch about 14 cents a pound. That's not a lot, but Briney says the huge volume of carp he catches more than makes up for the low price-per-pound. Since he started fishing for carp, Briney says he's doubled his income.

Briney used to think carp were ugly. "But now, I think they look pretty good," he says, laughing, noting that they bring "about $4 a fish.""

Randall Parker said at January 4, 2010 9:32 PM:


I read that article before writing my post. Yes, he's making 14 cents per lb for bony unappealing fish. What's your point?

Engineer-Poet said at January 5, 2010 6:05 AM:

Some time ago, someone suggested that Chicago simply turn off part of its sewage treatment system and dump semi-treated sewage into the canal.  The high BOD of the sewage would drive the canal anoxic, eliminating any threat of the carp migrating.

A couple miles of anoxic canal, followed by zones with air bubblers to digest the solids, would be a much better barrier than an electric stun fence.  However, the EPA isn't going to sign off on such a thing even if it would prevent an ecological catastrophe.

mib said at January 5, 2010 9:44 AM:

If the shipping companies stand to lose a lot of money, what is to stop them from clandestinely introducing the carp to Lake Michigan? It's virtually impossible that anyone would be caught in the act. Then the shippers could claim, "Oh well, the fish are already here. No need to close the the canal."

All it takes is one selfish person.

Bruce said at January 5, 2010 2:51 PM:

Randall, he's making 200,000 a year for asian carp fishing AND helping the rivers.

Sometimes capitalism IS the answer.


The alternative seems to be poison:


Its kind of weird. All people seem to think of is government, regulation, poision, lawyers and lawsuits. Stuff happens. Learn to cope. Adapt.

Randall Parker said at January 5, 2010 6:34 PM:


I really like the idea of an anoxic canal to stop the carp. They can't swim 2 miles without oxygen.

Steve in Eden said at January 8, 2010 6:32 PM:

Even a perfect barrier is unlikely to stop the carp for long. Kingfishers are known to catch fish in one body of water and release them in another pond, lake, or stream nearby. The Belted Kingfisher is a year round resident in that area.

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