Tuesday afternoon, crews searched the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near Stickney. The effort is the polar opposite of shooting fish in a barrel. It's more like looking for a needle in a haystack- and it's one of the reasons many people in neighboring states to the north are so worried about the ability to stop the Asian carp before they enter the Great Lakes.
They're catching fish- but so far no Asian Carp. That's either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective. Good: Because perhaps it means the voracious eaters of all things aquatic haven't yet reached the final few miles before Lake Michigan. Or bad: Because they're doing so undetected. Track their progress at asiancarp.org, where they will post information about any carp they catch.
"We know roughly the location the fish were last fall but we're going to have to renegotiate all those points and figure out where they are now at this point in time," said John Rogner, Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
There is some evidence that Asian carp may have already penetrated an electric barrier fence near Romeoville and are swimming north. The fish's DNA has been detected in Wilmette and Calumet Harbors. And late last year a dead Asian carp turned up in the sanitary and ship canal in Lockport after a toxin was injected into the water.
"Asian Carp, if they're present above the barrier system, and again we only have E-DNA evidence, they're here in quite low numbers," Rogner said.
On Tuesday afternoon, near Stickney, three teams from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fished an area where warm water is discharged into the Sanitary and Ship Canal. In theory, it's where fish may gather.
Experts are using electric current to herd all fish into nets then checking to see if there are any Asian Carp in their catch. This search is just one aspect of an $80-million carp control plan.
But it's not giving much comfort to other Great Lake states that fear if the Asian carp reaches Lake Michigan their fishing and water tourism economies could be destroyed. Michigan is suing Illinois and trying to get a judge to order the sanitary and ship canal be sealed.
"Closing the locks is not going to be the only thing that will work here. The fish will go around to Indiana and get into the Great Lakes. We have to do a number of different things," said Marc Miller, Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources Director.
Don't underestimate the clamor to close the Chicago locks from folks in Michigan. Tuesday in Traverse, the Michigan attorney general and others held a packed meeting where residents and business owners voiced fears that the carp could destroy their livelihoods if they make into the Great Lakes.
No Asian carp found Tuesday, but the search of the sanitary and ship canal will continue into next week.