Bighead Carp Found Near Lake Michigan

By: - June 24, 2010 12:00 am

The moment that scientists in the Great Lakes states had dreaded arrived Tuesday. A 19.6-pound, 34.6-inch male Asian carp got caught in a net in Lake Calumet, a Chicago-area waterway that connects Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River, sparking renewed calls to close off the shipping locks around Chicago that connect the lakes to the river.

Scientists had suspected that carp were threatening the Great Lakes, and they devised an electric barrier to keep the fish out of the lakes. Last month, they also poisoned a stretch of the Little Calumet River above the barrier after finding carp DNA. The poisoning killed 11,000 fish, none of them the dreaded carp, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Carp have been pushing out native species in the Mississippi River ever since they escaped from southern fish farms almost 20 years ago, according to the Detroit News . It’s unlikely the fish found in Lake Calumet was traveling alone.

“Asian carp are like cockroaches; when you see one you know it’s accompanied by many more you don’t see,” Henry Henderson, of the Natural Resources Defense Council told The New York Times .

The carp died after being pulled from the water and was sent to Springfield, where tests will determine its age and how long it had lived in the river.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, a candidate for governor, said the discovery confirmed the state’s “worst fears,” adding that he was considering legal action, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel .

Six Great Lakes states sued Illinois this year asking that commercial shipping locks be closed to halt the advance of the bighead carp. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case and President Barack Obama did not order the locks shut down. Republican politicians again took aim at Obama over the locks Wednesday.

“He must take action immediately by ordering the locks closed and producing an emergency plan to stop Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan,” Cox said , according to the Chicago Tribune .

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, of Michigan, another gubernatorial candidate, accused the administration of “dragging its feet,” the Grand Rapids Press reported.

“For far too long the effort has been reactive as opposed to proactive,” he said. 

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