Council of Great Lakes Industries on TwitterCouncil of Great Lakes Industries on LinkedIn

Live silver carp pulled from a branch of the Chicago Area Waterway System

On June 23, a commercial fisherman pulled a live Asian carp out of the Calumet River, about nine miles from Lake Michigan. According to the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, the 8-pound, 28-inch long adult silver carp was the second live Asian carp that has been found beyond the electric barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in the past 10 years. The first incident was the discovery of a bighead carp in Lake Calumet in 2010.

The discovery of the silver carp in June triggered intensive sampling on a 13-mile stretch of the Calumet River. So far the intensive sampling has not turned up any additional Asian carp. The fish has been sent to Southern Illinois University, where biologists will attempt to determine where the fish spawned and whether it can reproduce. The bighead carp caught in 2010 had spawned in Arkansas and probably arrived in the Chicago area in a shipment of commercial fish.

Officials focused on managing the risk that Asian carp will invade the Great Lakes caution that the discovery of one individual fish past the electric barriers does not demonstrate that a breeding population of Asian carp exists in the Great Lakes. Experts estimate that about 20 fish (about 10 males and 10 females) are needed to establish a breeding population. Dozens of federal, state, and provincial agencies are collaborating to prevent an invasion by monitoring and managing existing populations in the Illinois River and other waterways, developing and implementing contingency plans, and practicing “rapid response” techniques in case the fish breech the electric barriers.

In the meantime, a multi-stakeholder initiative to address the risk that Asian carp will invade the Great Lakes appears to have stalled. CGLI is a member of the Chicago Area Waterway System Advisory Committee (CAWS-AC), a multi-stakeholder advisory group that is considering potential short-, mid- and long-term plans for preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. In 2014 and 2015, the CAWS-AC urged the U.S. federal government to study the potential of implementing additional safeguards at Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, IL. The U.S. Corps of Engineers (USACE) was expected to release a draft study report on February 28, 2017, but the Trump Administration delayed the release indefinitely at the request of 16 Illinois and Indiana legislators who were concerned that safeguards at Brandon Road Lock and Dam would disrupt commercial navigation. The CAWS-AC has been unable to reach consensus on a response to the Administration’s decision to delay.

The discovery of the silver carp on June 23 has intensified calls for the release of the draft Brandon Road study. On June 19, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced bills in the House and Senate that would force the administration to release the report and schedule a public comment period for obtaining public input. On June 28, legislators again urged President Trump to release the report in a letter that referenced the June 23 discovery and asserted that the study is the next step in protecting the region’s “$7 billion fishing industry, $16 billion boating industry, and $18 billion hunting and wildlife observation industry” (https://upton.house.gov/uploadedfiles/6-28-17_asian_carp_letter_to_potus.pdf).