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Asian Carp Invasion would be a Freshwater Disaster for Canada

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Asian Carp Invasion would be a Freshwater Disaster for Canada


As the invasive fish pound on the door to Lake Michigan and the rest

of the Great Lakes, emergency action must be taken to stop the threat






October 14, 2009 (Ottawa, Toronto)- Invasive Asian carp have reached the Great Lake's last line of defense outside of Chicago, Illinois, and one heavy rainfall can see them breach the electric barrier protecting the world's largest source of surface freshwater from these voracious fish. Environmental and conservation groups are urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take emergency action, while the Canadian government is urged to support the effort in any way possible.


Currently, an electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) is all that prevents the fish from spreading into the Great Lakes. Recently discovered just a mile from the barrier, the carp have also been found in waterways less than 100 feet from the canal, and could bypass the barrier completely if a heavy rain causes the Des Plaines River to flood.


"This is an emergency and we are down to sandbags and mortar," says Jennifer Nalbone, from Great Lakes United. "Barriers must be built between these nearby waterways and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to ensure that during a fall flood live carp cannot be carried into the CSSC past the electrical barrier."


Asian carp present a significant risk to Canadian freshwaters. The Canadian department of Fisheries and Oceans has warned via risk assessments that Asian carp species would not only survive, but, due to similar temperatures found in its native range in China, likely thrive in the Great Lakes and across most of the provinces.


"There is an urgent threat of the carp entering Lake Michigan if the nearby waterways flood into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal," says Mary Muter Georgian Baykeeper from Georgian Bay Forever. "One heavy rain event could spell disaster for the Great Lakes and inland waters across Canada."


In addition to the Des Plaines River, which in some places is only yards away from the CSSC, the carp are poised to also enter another adjacent canal, the Illinois & Michigan (I&M), which is connected to the CSSC by small culverts that the carp can swim through during heavy rains.


The Asian carp are invasive fish that are harming the environment and economies of the Mississippi and threaten to do the same to the Great Lakes. The term captures four different species of fish: the bighead, grass, silver and black carp, of which the first three have invaded the Mississippi River watershed. The fish are voracious feeders that can grow to maximum weights of 40-50 kg based on species, quickly dominating a waterbody due to their size. They would cause irreversible harm to the Great Lakes by consuming large quantities of food, muscling out native fish populations, and altering native habitat. Meanwhile, the silver carps' tendency to jump out of the water when startled makes them a hazard to boaters.


The CSSC is a man-made waterway that connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River basin. Originally intended as a means for the city of Chicago to overcome sewage problems in the early 20th century, it created an artificial connection through which aquatic invasive species can pass in both directions. This is the only waterway connecting the two basins. The electric barrier is located near Romeoville, Illinois on the CSSC. A new DNA monitoring technique being used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame, found that invasive Asian carp are a mere mile from the electric barrier in the CSSC. In response the Corps increased the voltage at the barrier from 1 to 2 volts.


Allies in the United States are circulating an action alert that calls on citizens to contact their member of congress, senators, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and urge them to take action this fall and ensure that:


  • An emergency physical barrier (like sandbags) be built between the Des Plaines and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to ensure the Des Plaines River and live carp cannot flood into the CSSC past the electrical barrier.
  • An additional barrier (such as a bubble/acoustic barrier) is installed to stop the carp from migrating upstream into the Des Plaines River.
  • Critical sections of the I&M Canal be filled in, so that carp cannot swim into the CSSC during floods.

Canadian citizens are also being asked to contact the Minister of the Environment, Jim Prentice and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, and urge that they offer Canada's help in any effort to stop the invasive fish.


"If the Asian carp make it to Lake Michigan, they won't stop at the border," says Dr. Terry Quinney from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters "They will invade all of the Great Lakes, and have the opportunity to spread within inland waterways across the province; affecting the $7 billion dollar recreational and commercial fishery, as well as degrading the biodiversity of our waters."


For more information: contact:


Jennifer Nalbone, Campaign Director, Invasive Species and Navigation, Great Lakes United: phone: (716) 213-0408 email: [email protected]


Mary Muter, Georgian Baykeeper from Georgian Bay Forever: phone (416) 489-8101 email: [email protected]


Dr. Terry Quinney, Provincial Manager of Fish and Wildlife Services, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, 705-748-6324, ext. 242 email: [email protected]

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