Now that an actual real live Asian carp has been discovered beyond the barrier trying to keep it out of Lake Michigan, scientists are trying to discover if the adult male fish was dropped into Lake Calumet or if it is part of a larger population of fish.
John Rogner of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources told the Chicago Tribune that the carp, 34 inches long and more than 19 pounds, was found east of the O’Brien Lock, giving it unimpeded access to Lake Michigan.
Rogner said fish biologists will use genetic testing to try to determine whether the bighead carp was farm-raised, indicating it might have been dropped off in the lake, or whether it had lived its life in its natural environment.
The latter would suggest the carp was among several that perhaps have migrated up the Chicago water system and are now poised to enter Lake Michigan, a potentially dire scenario given how Asian carp have overwhelmed native fish populations in the Mississippi River and lower parts of the Illinois River.
Meanwhile, the fish has spurred Great Lakes politicians and activists into calling for immediate action.
Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said the capture highlights the need to permanently sever the link between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. The Army Corps is studying alternatives, but says the analysis will take years.
“Is it disturbing? Extraordinarily. Is it surprising? No,” Brammeier said of the carp’s discovery beyond the barriers, according to The Associated Press.
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox renewed his call for President Obama to order the locks closed.
“Responsibility for this potential economic and ecological disaster rests solely with President Obama,” Cox said. “He must take action immediately by ordering the locks closed and producing an emergency plan to stop Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan.”
His call was echoed by other politicians calling for legal action to permanently prevent the Asian carp’s access into Lake Michigan.
“This was so tragically predictable,” said U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who is among the architects of the Carp Act, a bill in Congress that would close the shipping locks. “For years, myself and so many others have raised concerns over this issue and were criticized for it or told we were overreacting. Today, our worst fears have been confirmed.”
U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, sponsor of a bill that would immediately close locks, said in the Detroit Free Press, “The president stated there was a zero-tolerance policy in regards to invasive species like Asian carp. It’s time he made good on that statement.”
“This evidence should be a wake-up call that this is an urgent situation for the Great Lakes,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “I strongly urge the Army Corps to close the locks now while they continue to determine the best way to permanently separate the Chicago Area Waterway System from the Great Lakes.”
And in the Grand Rapids Press, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, blamed Obama for failing to close the locks through which the invasive species can swim from the Illinois River watershed into the Great Lakes watershed.
“The administration has been dragging its feet instead of taking bold decisive action to stop the invasion of the Asian carp,” Hoekstra said. “For far too long the effort has been reactive as opposed to proactive.”