Officials unveil new tools to fight Asian carp

May 23, 2011 4:39:27 PM PDT
A $7 million program will help federal and state authorities, who want to keep Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan, to track the invasive fish and provide more weapons to block them.

The Chicago-area Waterway System - the system of waterways through downtown before they meet Lake Michigan - is the last defense against Asian carp.

"We do not want to upset the balance that is in the Great Lakes that is associated with a wonderful recreational and commercial fishery and very popular boating in the Great Lakes," said Charlie Wooley, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

On Monday, officials took the media on a tour of anti-Asian carp techniques. Crews showed journalists how they monitor for Asian carp where the south branch meets Bubbly Creek and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Boats with special devices on the front send electric shocks through the water essentially killing the fish nearby. Crews scoop up the dead and dying fish to see what type of fish is in the water. Another boat takes in nets looking for Asian carp.

Officials are searching for new ways to keep ahead of the fish.

"When there's only a few individuals of a species out there, it is very difficult to collect those individuals with traditional gear so we have to fish smarter," said John Rogner, Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources.

Officials held a press conference Monday afternoon about this year's plan to monitor and respond to the Asian carp. The $7 million plan is funded by the federal government.

"The long term goal is to come up with some kind of biological or chemical way to control these fish," said Wooley.

The monitoring will continue to include testing the water for evidence of Asian carp DNA.

"We'll be covering the entire waterway on a regular recurring basis, and it will give us a snap shot in terms of where DNA is showing up. Then we can decide how to act based on that," said Rogner.

A new underwater camera will also be used in coming months. It works in low visibility and show long distances to see what kind of fish are near the electric barrier near Joliet. So far only one Asian carp has been found above the barrier.

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