carp lake michigan invasive  fishkill

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Poison poured into canal to target Asian carp

Have humans forgotten they’re a part of nature? Would sharing the bounty of nature help us remember? This 2009 article is from the Detroit Free Press, Dec 2.

by Tina Lam

Officials gathering for an all-out assault on invasive Asian carp near an electric barrier in south suburban Chicago said today they don’t know whether any of the feared fish already have made it to Lake Michigan. But if they have, it’s likely only a handful.

A massive effort, including the largest fish kill in Illinois history, began today with electrofishing -- using electric shock to stun fish in the water -- so native fish near could be relocated before poison was dumped into a stretch of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Electrofishing near the barrier today showed no live carp, giving officials hope that DNA previously found in those spots belonged to only a small number of the fish.

Rotenone was applied starting at dusk tonight, in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal at five stations along a 5.7-mile route. Applications were to be repeated in two-hour bursts. Officials said the dead fish would rise to the surface within a few hours to a few days.

Although the poison neutralizes itself eventually, crews applied a neutralizer south of the operation zone to make sure rotenone didn’t affect fish downstream.

As some 300 people continue a poisoning effort on Thursday to try to ensure Asian carp don’t get to Lake Michigan, scientists are studying various means to deal with the invasive fish if they do make it to the Great Lakes.

One possible antidote to the carp is to make the Great Lakes’ most hated potential invasive species public enemy number one, with a bullet.

Biobullets is the nickname for a specialized poison pill the size of a grain of sand that could be targeted only at Asian carp. Researchers with private companies and government agencies are working on biobullets now.

Scientists also are looking at bubble curtains, a constant wall of live bubbles they’ve tested on some fish that repels them. They’ve also experimented with steady streams of noise that bothers fish. Either bubbles or sound curtains could be used in certain areas to round up fish. The Asian carp then could be isolated and killed.

Researchers also are studying methods that have been successful in controlling sea lamprey in the Great Lakes, such as capturing and sterilizing fish so they can’t reproduce.

Closing the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal permanently, which many say is the only way to keep out more invasive species, would have huge implications for barge operators and recreational boats that use it.

Barges haul cement, stone, oil, and coal through the canal between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin, and already are upset about the temporary closure for the poisoning operation and electric barrier maintenance.

The National Wildlife Federation supports both an immediate closure of three locks between the electric barrier and Lake Michigan, and the permanent closure of the canal, a longer-term solution.

The short-term solution, poisoning a 5.7-mile stretch of the canal in order to kill any potential carp while taking the anti-carp electric barrier down for maintenance, will continue through at least Sunday.

Hundreds of workers are expected to spend the next several days netting dead fish and piling them in dumpsters headed for a landfill. They’ll check carefully for Asian carp. The dead fish cannot be used for things like fertilizer or animal feed because of the poison.

DNA from huge, fierce, hungry bighead and silver carp, escapees from ponds in Arkansas that have slowly moved up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers over the past 15 years, has been found at a lock only 7 miles from Lake Michigan.

Still, officials said, so far they’ve found only DNA -- no live Asian carp -- within striking distance of Lake Michigan, which gives them hope.

If only a few Asian carp make it to the Great Lakes, they’d be easier to cope with, officials said. “If only one or two get through, it’s not the end,” said Rogner. “They’ll be little fish in a big pond.”

Once established, jumbo-sized Asian carp vacuum up plankton that other fish and organisms need for food, killing them off slowly. In some rivers they have invaded, the carp now make up 90% of the mass of all living things.

JJS: Naturally, humans have to alter the ecosystems they find themselves in; what species doesn’t do that? However, since our salient feature is consciousness, could we go about altering nature more consciously? If all of us got a share of Earth’s worth, would we be more careful in utilizing natural resources?


Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Artificial light traps animals, PFCs distort hormones

Even as coal waste erupted, one city and one judge cooperated

A Wider Canal Need Not Maximize the Harm

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