Crews shock fish to fight Asian carp

Biologists to relocate game fish
December 2, 2009 3:23:32 PM PST
Wildlife officials planned to dump a toxic chemical into a 6-mile stretch of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Wednesday night. They want to kill the Asian carp. It's part of an ongoing effort to keep the invasive fish from entering the Great Lakes. Biologists agree this is just about the last stand against the Asian carp -- because if the species gets into the Great Lakes, it will be a catastrophe for the lake system. Teams from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources sent electricity along booms attached to the electric fish fence near the Lockport powerhouse to stun fish -- and then relocate species of value, the preliminary step to stopping the march of the invasive Asian carp.

"We have no choice now but to move forward with treatment of the canal near the barrier. We believe it is the sensible thing to do as the Corps shuts down the barrier for necessary maintenance," said John Rogner, Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources.

It is a massive operation involving government agencies from the state to the international level and everything in between

"We need to constantly consider what the impacts would be, so the Corps of Engineers is working with the other agencies, and we will from our expertise make sure that we're doing due diligence into any future decisions," said Commander Vincent Quarles, Army Corps.

The plan is to start poisoning this chunk of the CSSC from above the electric fence and then introduce 2,200 gallons of poison sequentially at five stations downriver every two hours -- the path the Asian carp have used to come up from the Mississippi River.

Scientists have already found Asian carp DNA in water residue beyond the electric fence, but they are not worried that this effort is too little too late

"You do get reports from time to time, but we have not been able to verify any of those, so we're operating as if there are no carp in Lake Michigan now," Rogner said.

But that threat has the governor of Michigan asking her attorney general to see if the courts can get the sanitary canal's connections to Lake Michigan closed, a potentially mammoth undertaking that would affect shipping and the management of Lake Michigan water levels.

"We are looking at everything we can and doing everything we can within the laws and regularities we need to work with. Our top priority is keeping those carp out of the Great Lakes while balancing other considerations that we have as well," said Cameron Davis, US EPA senior advisor.

The rotenone is safe for humans and animals, and an antidote to it will be mixed into the river at 11:30 Thursday morning. Officials concede their engineering prowess needs a dose of luck for their plans to work

It can't be underscored enough how big this operation is: 300 organizations are involved with it. Thursday morning, dead fish should start floating, officials expecting 200,000 pounds of fish to eventually rise to the surface.


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