Swimming to Chicago: Asian Carp

A hundred years ago, you could fish in the Great Lakes with a bucket; just drop it in and pick up fish. Then settlers introduced the European Carp which destroyed native fish habitats, and the lamprey eel destroyed the Lake Trout fishery. Now it looks more than likely that the Asian Carp will soon get into the Great Lakes via Chicago, with devastating results. It is an depressing story of environmental neglect told by Peter Gorrie of the Star.

The carp were introduced to clean southern catfish farms in the seventies, and escaped into the Mississippi; now they make up 95% by weight of all the animal matter in parts of the Mississippi and have devastated other fisheries. It has moved far enough north that it is getting near the Chicago ship and Sanitary channel, built in the 1880's to ship Chicago's sewer waste south, away from the drinking water sources in Lake Michigan. Nobody much cares; 30 States still permit the use of Asian Carp at catfish farms.

For years the water in the canal was so polluted that it acted as a barrier; now that it has been cleaned up fish are swimming north. The only barrier is an experimental electric fence; it evidently causes great discomfort for the fish and they turn around and swim back.

A sixteen million dollar, permanent double fence with backup power is half built, but it went over budget and the US and Illinois governments are squabbling over who will pick up the tab or pay the power bill and again, nobody much cares.

Somebody should care. The City of Chicago prides itself on being green, and it built that channel; they should insist that the fence be finished before it is too late. ::The Star

See John's earlier Chicago post about what goes in this river.

Tags: Chicago | Fish

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