Asian Carp & the Great Lakes

Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi River system for years after escaping from fish farms and wastewater treatment ponds in the southern U.S.

They’re knocking on the door of the Great Lakes, and a number of people are concerned about what could happen if carp become established in the region.

In this five-part series, we’ll take a look at what officials are trying to do to keep the fish out, what might happen if carp get in, and why some people want to turn carp into a business opportunity.

Pages

Environment & Science
11:42 am
Tue August 7, 2012

Hunting for Asian carp in Lake Erie

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium (perhaps a face only its mother could love).
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to the Environment Report interview with MDNR's Todd Kalish.

Crews with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, along with the Ohio DNR, are searching Lake Erie for Asian carp this week.

They’re stepping up their sampling efforts because of lab results that showed six water samples from Lake Erie had positive environmental DNA hits for Asian carp. Those water samples were from August 2011.

The teams are now out on the lake to see if they can find any more evidence of bighead or silver carp in the lake.

Todd Kalish is the Lake Erie Basin Coordinator with the Michigan DNR.  He says a positive eDNA sample could mean there are live Asian carp in Lake Erie... but there are other possibilities.

"A positive DNA sample basically means that some part of a carp was left behind within 24 hours of a sample being taken. And so it could’ve been a scale or mucus or excrement. Basically what it tells us, and what we assume, that environmental DNA means there was a silver or bighead carp in that area within 24-48 hours of the sampling."

Read more
Environment & Science
4:01 pm
Sat August 4, 2012

A new Asian Carp threat in Michigan waters

Grass Carp
US Geological Survey -- Florida Integrated Science Center, Gainesville

State wildlife officials are concerned that a potentially damaging fish has turned up in the St. Joseph River in Berrien County.

Read more
morning news roundup
6:47 am
Thu August 2, 2012

In this morning's state news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

City of Wyoming cannot ban medical marijuana

Michigan’s Court of Appeals has struck down a city ordinance banning medical marijuana. The Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming is one of a few local governments that has banned medical marijuana – citing federal drug laws. A Wyoming resident and medical marijuana patient sued the city. Yesterday the Court of Appeals ruled cities cannot ban medical marijuana because state law allows it. The judges say any prosecution under federal laws would be up to the federal government, not local governments. A similar case against the City of Birmingham in metro Detroit is pending.

Search for Asian carp in Lake Erie

Scientists have begun searching two of western Lake Erie's bays and tributary rivers for signs of dreaded Asian carp. Officials announced last month that DNA from bighead and silver carp had been detected in Lake Erie water samples taken a year ago. They said the six positive hits among more than 400 samples they examined didn't necessarily mean the invasive fish have established a population in the lake. Natural resource departments in Michigan and Ohio are teaming with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take a closer look. Crews are collecting water this week in the Sandusky River and Bay and the Maumee River and Bay, in the same areas where the positive samples were taken in 2011. Next week, they will use electroshocking and netting to catch fish.

Juvenile lifers

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says hundreds of juveniles sentenced to life without parole for murder or complicity in a murder should not get re-sentencing hearings. Schuette says a U-S Supreme Court ruling that struck down Michigan’s mandatory life without parole law for juveniles should only apply to future cases. He has asked the state Supreme Court to limit the scope of the federal decision.
Deborah LaBelle is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. She says if Schuette prevails, the effect would be catastrophic on people sent to prison as juveniles who were not given a fair shake by the system. Schuette says it’s not fair that murder victims’ families would have to return to court for re-sentencing hearings after they were assured their cases were over. 

Asian Carp
7:19 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Latest search fails to find Asian Carp in Illinois lake which is a short distance from Lake Michigan

Another search of a lake close to Lake Michigan has failed to find Asian Carp. The invasive carp could threaten native Great Lakes fish populations.

Fishermen spent three days last week sweeping a six mile stretch around Lake Calumet, near Chicago. The result: 6,300 fish caught, 30 different species, but no Bighead or Silver carp.

It’s the second time this year that teams led by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and other agencies, have scoured the waterway looking for Asian carp.

Read more
Environment & Science
10:37 am
Mon July 16, 2012

State plans to remove Asian Carp species from Michigan lake

A ball of white bread and 6-pound fishing line did this grass carp in.
user Catman529 wikimedia

It's not one of the "Big Three" Asian Carp species that biologists worry could devastate an already struggling Great Lakes fishery (Bighead, Black, or Silver). But the Grass Carp is a species of Asian Carp officials are concerned about. The fish can damage native plant and fish habitat in lakes.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources plans to remove these illegal carp from a lake about 20 miles southeast of Jackson, Michigan.

Marrs Lake in Lenawee County is where officials previously said they found a grass carp. MDNR also plan to sample connected lakes (Washington, Wolf and Allen) for grass carp DNA to see whether the fish spread.

The grass carp was found during a June survey after a fisherman submitted a photo of one. During the survey, three other grass carp were spotted.

Environment & Science
4:34 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

The search resumes Tuesday for possible Asian Carp in Illinois lake close to Lake Michigan

Bighead Asian carp caught in 2010
Illinois DNR

An intensive four day search for the invasive Asian Carp gets underway near Chicago tomorrow. The search area is a short swim from Lake Michigan.

Read more
Environment & Science
10:00 am
Sat July 7, 2012

Hunt for Asian Carp resumes near Lake Michigan

Juvenile silver carp, seen here, can grow up to weigh 100 pounds.
user MirkoB Wikimedia Commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Authorities plan another intensive search for Asian carp next week after repeatedly detecting DNA from the invasive fish in Chicago's Lake Calumet.

Officials said Friday that genetic material from silver carp was found in samples taken in May and June. Policy requires stepped-up efforts to find the fish whenever their DNA turns up during three consecutive rounds of sampling in the same area.

Read more
Asian carp
3:12 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Michigan congressman pushes speedier Asian carp response as part of federal highway bill

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium (perhaps a face only its mother could love).
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Update 3:12 p.m.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) Congress has approved a measure requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to quicken development of a strategy for keeping the Great Lakes free of Asian carp.

Corps officials said in May they would submit a report by the end of 2013, roughly the same time as required under the legislation. But officials said they would provide only a list of options for Congress and the public to consider.

The legislation instead requires specific steps for preventing species migrations at 18 potential entry points, including Chicago-area rivers and canals.

11:29 p.m.

A massive bill, covering everything from highway spending to student loan interest rates to flood insurance, is set to pass the U.S. House and Senate in a rare show of bipartisan deal-making.

And tucked into the legislation is an act that would make the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers speed up their research and planning aimed at keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Midland) used his spot on a House and Senate negotiation committee to make sure the Stop Invasive Species Act was included as part of the larger law.

The act was introduced by Camp and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) earlier this year and would force the Corps of Engineers to draft a plan within 18 months---about a year ahead of the current schedule.

In a press release, Camp cast the Asian carp threat in both an environmental and economic light:

“Today Congress took an important step to stop Asian carp from devastating the Great Lakes ecosystem.  Over two years ago, a live Asian carp was found in Lake Calumet, less than six miles from Lake Michigan.  The responses so far have been temporary fixes when what we need is a permanent solution.  The Stop Invasive Species Act lays the groundwork to permanently protect our lakes and the $7 billion fishing industry and 800,000 jobs they support.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with blocking species transfer between the Great Lakes system and the Mississippi River.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Read more
Environment & Science
1:01 am
Wed June 20, 2012

Illinois officials downplay postive test for Asian Carp DNA near Lake Michigan

A Bighead carp caught in June of 2010 in Lake Calumet, Illinois
Illinois DNR

Illinois officials are downplaying the recent discovery of Asian Carp DNA in a waterway a short distance from Lake Michigan.

Asian Carp are an invasive species that experts fear could devastate fish native to the Great Lakes.

Read more
Environment & Science
3:26 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Possible signs of Asian carp found near Lake Michigan

Juvenile silver carp, seen here, can grow up to weigh 100 pounds.
user MirkoB Wikimedia Commons

A survey recently conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed positive evidence for genetic material from silver carp in southwest Chicago. 

The May 22 test showed 17 positive identifications for the DNA of silver carp in 112 sites sampled in Lake Calumet and Little Calumet River through a process called "eDNA," or environmental DNA testing. The test involves filtering water samples for fragments of DNA shed by target species.

Genetic material left from carp tissue, mucus, feces or urine is not a certain indication of the presence of a live Asian carp; the DNA found in testing could have come from dead fish or water from another source.

Researchers also tested for bighead carp in the area, another species of Asian carp, though all results were negative. 

The AP reports:

Jared Teutsch, water policy advocate for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said in a statement Monday the findings mean "another year of worry" about Asian carp.

Bighead and silver carp were imported from Asia. They have migrated up the Mississippi River and its tributaries. An electric barrier is meant to block them.

Dozens of water samples taken beyond the barrier in recent years have contained Asian carp DNA, although just one actual carp has been found there.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
2:09 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

DNR to search lake after illegal carp report

A Michigan DNR group today will search for Grass Carp, seen here.
user Dezidor Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife experts are searching a southern Michigan lake for illegal carp this week after a fisherman submitted a photo of a 3-foot-long grass carp, a species of Asian carp.

A crew traveled today to set up nets in Marrs Lake in Lenawee County, about 20 miles southeast of Jackson. Department of Natural Resources agency biologist Todd Kalish  says the crew plans to pull out the nets on Thursday to inventory what's found.

MDNR Fisheries Specialist Elizabeth Hay-Chmielewski traveled with that group today.  She says the grass carp is capable of disrupting a lake's ecosystem.

Read more
Environment & Science
11:59 am
Wed June 6, 2012

Arkansas man charged for illegally selling Asian carp in Michigan

Grass carp have been illegal to sell in Michigan for decades.
USGS

A man was charged with 12 felony counts for illegally selling live Asian carp in Michigan. And he wasn't too inconspicuous - "grass carp" was apparently written on the side of his truck.

From the Michigan DNR:

...the Attorney General's Criminal Division has charged an Arkansas man with 12 felony counts of possessing and selling live Asian carp in violation of state law protecting against the spread of invasive species. The charges follow a joint investigation by the DNR's Special Investigation Unit and Commercial Fish Enforcement Unit.

Grass carp are a type of Asian carp. Grass carp have been illegal to sell in Michigan for decades because the invasive species is a voracious plant eater.

Officials say grass carp "could potentially remove all vegetation from a body of water at the expense of native species."

The fish were imported in the 1960's and have been used to control weeds in ponds.

State officials say David Shane Costner, 42, of Harrisburg, Ark., had 110 grass carp housed in a semi-truck. Costner was working for Farley's Arkansas Pondstockers.

More from the MDNR:

Costner allegedly traveled around the state, conducting sales of the illegal carp from store parking lots. The trucks also contained live fish species permitted under state law, including channel catfish, largemouth bass and fathead minnows. On May 16, 2012, Costner allegedly sold two of the live grass carp to undercover DNR investigators in Midland, Mich.

David Eggert of MLive reports Costner's truck had the words "grass carp" written on the side.

The wildlife agency received a tip that Costner had been selling illegal carp at several locations in southern Michigan and the west side of the state, Golder said... Costner could not be reached for comment. A secretary who answered the phone at Farley's said he no longer works there.

Grass carp are just one of four species of Asian Carp officials are worried about. And Grass carp appear to be the least of their worries when it comes to threats to the Great Lakes.

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee lists three Asian Carp that are of concern - Grass carp are not on the list:

There are three species of Asian carp that are considered invasive and a threat to the Great Lakes: the bighead, silver and black carp. Silver and bighead carp are filter-feeding fish and consume plant and animal plankton. Asian carp can grow to large sizes: some as large as 110 pounds, though the average size is around 30-40 pounds. Bighead and silver carp are voracious eaters, capable of eating 5-20 percent of their body weight each day. They consume plankton—algae and other microscopic organisms—stripping the food web of the key source of food for small and big fish. Black carp differ in that they consume primarily mollusks, and threaten native mussel and sturgeon populations. They can grow to seven feet in length and over 100 pounds.

Environment & Science
6:24 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Feds say they'll act quicker to release study on keeping carp out of Great Lakes

Asian Carp at Chicago's Shed Aquarium
Kate Gardiner Creative Commons

The federal government says it will speed up a decision on how to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species in the Mississippi River basin. The Obama administration announced the new timetable Tuesday.

Read more
Environment
4:14 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

No time to dawdle on Asian carp plan, lawmakers push for quicker plan

Asian carp leaping out of a river.
glfc.org

Last month, we spoke with Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) about plans about a permanent solution for keeping Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes.

“The Army Corps of Engineers is working on a plan to give us specific recommendations on how to separate the waters… The problem is they say they won’t have this done until 2015. And, so, what we’re trying to do is push them to get this done much quicker,” Stabenow explains.

Now, we hear about legislation introduced in Congress by Senator Stabenow and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up their analysis.

More from the Associated Press:

Legislation introduced in Congress would force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up a study of how to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes.

The corps has identified 18 locations where fish and other organisms could migrate between the lakes and other watersheds, including an artificial linkage between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin in the Chicago area.

Corps officials say they'll release their recommendations by late 2015.

Michigan's U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp say that isn't soon enough. They're sponsoring bills to require the corps to submit a progress report within 90 days of the legislation's enactment and a full plan within 18 months.

Scientists say Asian carp could starve out native Great Lakes fish.

The Environment Report
7:54 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Michigan Sen. Stabenow: We need to move as quickly as possible to stop the Asian Carp

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow says we need to move quickly to stop the threat of the Asian Carp on the Great Lakes' eco-system
Kate.Gardner Flickr

By now, you’ve probably heard all about the Asian Carp.

The invasive species is making its way up the Mississippi River and there’s concern that if the fish are able to get into the Great Lakes that they could drastically change the waters’ eco-system.

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Michigan Republican Congressman Dave Camp introduced the Stop the Asian Carp Act last year. The legislation required the Army Corps of Engineers to create a plan to permanently separate the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan.

Stopping the Carp

I spoke with Senator Stabenow this week and asked her where things stand with the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan. “The Army Corps of Engineers is working on a plan to give us specific recommendations on how to separate the waters… The problem is they say they won’t have this done until 2015. And, so, what we’re trying to do is push them to get this done much quicker,” Stabenow explains.

The Mississippi River: Not the only entry point for the Carp

A lot of attention has been paid to the Mississippi River as the main entry point where the Carp could get into the Great Lakes. But, Stabenow explains, “We also, now, are looking more broadly than just the Illinois River and the Mississippi River going into Lake Michigan. We’ve found that there have been some fish seen going across Indiana – in the Wabash River. At certain times, during the year, it connects to the Maumee River in Ohio and then actually goes into Lake Erie. And, so, this is a real challenge for us. There is, I believe, nineteen different tributaries and ways to get into the Great Lakes – that’s my biggest worry.”

Chicago shipping interests

Recently, we’ve been hearing more about the idea of permanently separating the waterways rather than a temporary solution. “I believe that we ought to be closing the [Chicago] locks until we get to a permanent solution. But, there is a lot of pushback from Illinois and Chicago,” Stabenow says. Those who work in commercial shipping in Chicago are against the idea of closing the locks. They say it would hurt their multi-million dollar business interests. “Personally, I’d say the other side’s interests are – not that we don’t respect them – but they’re small in terms of economic impact compared to what could happen having the fish go into the Great Lakes.

Read more
Environment
4:20 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Court won't close shipping canal immediately to stop invasive carp

The distribution of the bighead carp in the U.S. Evidence of the fish have been found in Lake Erie, but no reproducing populations have been found there yet.
USGS

This post has been updated with more details and comments from AG's office. 

Shipping locks in Chicago-area waterways will not be closed while a lawsuit over how to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes is pending. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the injunction Monday.

Read more
Politics
2:45 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Feds plan to spend $51.5 million on 2012 Asian carp fight

Searching for Asian Carp in the Great Lakes. The Obama Administration released its carp strategy today.
U.S. Coast Guard

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - The Obama administration plans to spend $51.5 million this year in its continuing battle to protect the Great Lakes from destructive Asian carp.

Federal officials announced their carp strategy for 2012 on Thursday. It includes first-time water sampling to determine whether bighead and silver carp have reached vulnerable sections of Lakes Michigan, Erie and Huron.

Other planned measures include stepped-up netting and trapping of Asian carp in the Illinois River. Also high-tech monitoring to determine if an electric barrier near Chicago is adequately blocking the carp's path to Lake Michigan.

Authorities also plan field tests of an acoustic underwater gun that could scare carp away and pheromones to lure them to places where they could be captured.

Asian Carp
7:26 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Feds spend $50 million on carp fight

The Obama administration will spend about $50 million this year on protecting the Great Lakes from greedy Asian carp, including first-time testing to see if the fish have reached Lakes Michigan and Erie.

Federal officials tell The Associated Press the government has updated its strategy for battling bighead and silver carp that have infested the Mississippi River watershed and are closing in on the Great Lakes.

Scientists say if the carp take hold in the lakes, they could threaten the $7 billion fishing industry by gobbling up plankton at the base of the food web.

Among new initiatives will be searching southern Lake Michigan and western Lake Erie for signs of carp DNA.

Also planned is stepped-up trapping and netting to remove Asian carp from tributary rivers.

Environment
6:00 am
Tue January 31, 2012

Report: Time to sever ties between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system

The report outlines three possible scenarios for physical separation.
Great Lakes Commission

Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers toward the Great Lakes for decades.

A coalition of U.S. and Canadian mayors says the solution is to physically separate the Great Lakes basin from the Mississippi River system forever. In other words... they want to completely stop the flow of water between the two systems to permanently block carp from swimming up into Lake Michigan... and stop any kind of invaders from moving between the basins.

A new report out today outlines how that massive separation might happen.

Tim Eder is the executive director of the Great Lakes Commission. His group put out the report, along with the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. The report identifies three different places on the Chicago waterway system where a physical separation could be put in place.

“It’s just putting some sheet piling, some metal and earth and concrete in the river to make a dam, basically.”

But the manmade system of canals in the Chicago area has been in place for a century (it was originally put in place to reverse the flow of the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan because untreated sewage was being dumped in the lake and making people sick - and even killing them).

Eder says there are a lot of people who depend on the waterway system as it is now.

“The river in Chicago now serves some really important purposes for managing floodwaters, for dealing with wastewater, and for transportation. Commercial transportation depends on that waterway, so our options propose solutions to maintain and even enhance all of those existing important uses of the waterway.”

Read more
Environment
10:35 am
Tue January 17, 2012

Asian carp could find a good home in Lake Erie

Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers toward the Great Lakes for decades. Bighead and silver carp are the species people are the most concerned about.

There’s been a lot of focus on keeping carp out of Lake Michigan.

But a new study finds carp might do well in Lake Erie and some of the rivers that feed the lake.

Patrick Kocovsky is a research fishery biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He says it’s believed Asian carp need specific conditions to make babies.

“What’s currently believed is Asian carp require some kind of flood event in a tributary.”

He says the carp need just the right temperature... a river that’s flowing fast enough and a stretch of river long enough to reproduce.

Kocovsky and his team studied the major tributaries of Lake Erie. They found that the Maumee River is highly suitable for Asian carp to lay eggs.

The researchers found the Sandusky and Grand Rivers to be moderately suitable for carp.

Patrick Kocovsky says if carp can get into Lake Erie, the western side of the lake is likely to be the most hospitable.

Read more

Pages