A press release from the Izaak Walton League
Gaithersburg, MD — A bighead carp was found in Lake Calumet yesterday by commercial fishermen performing routine sampling for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The almost 3-foot long, 20-pound carp is the first to be pulled from waters above the electric barriers built along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to keep invasive carp out of the Great Lakes.
Although the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee points out that this is the only carp found beyond the electric barriers to date, Great Lakes advocates view the finding as vindication for their concerns.
The American Sportfishing Association estimated in 2006 that recreational fishing on the Great Lakes had a $7 billion economic impact across the region and accounted for 58,000 local jobs. The total economic impact of the Great Lakes fishery is even higher when commercial and tribal fishing are included in the analysis.
“The math says to close the locks, at least for right now,” says Dave Dempsey, who serves on the Izaak Walton League’s Great Lakes Committee. “Most of the goods and raw materials shipped through the Chicago canal could be off-loaded on the Lake Michigan coast and transported inland via truck or rail.”
The Obama administration earlier pledged $78.5 million for Great Lakes carp control. The funding will be used to beef up the electric barriers already in place and develop other means of repelling the fish such as bubble curtains and strobe lights. But leaving the Chicago canal open while various scenarios are studied is not an option.
“Isolating the watershed would stop more Asian carp from getting into Lake Michigan,” says Dempsey. “If they can come up with some effective ways to block or eradicate the carp, then re-open the locks at a later date. But right now, it’s too big of a risk to leave the canals open.”