A new phase in the hunt for the Asian Carp begins today, as state and federal agencies begin an operation on a 2-mile stretch of the Cal-Sag Channel, on the inland side of the O'Brien Lock and Dam. This particular stretch has been a hotspot for Asian Carp DNA, and is thought to be good habitat for the invader.
This week's operation is improved based on the lessons learned from December's poisoning. In that operation, we don't know if/how many Asian Carp were killed and sank to the bottom. This time, they are netting the bottom first, so all fish should be recovered. They will also will all be sorted and counted, which should tell us if there are Asian Carp there, but also tell us a lot about the state of the waterway's recovery. The more different kinds of native fish they find, the healthier the water is.
Before poisoning the water (with a plant-based toxin that will then be neutralized to avoid downstream impacts), they will electro-shock it, which only stuns fish. Native species will be collected, kept alive, and returned to the water after the operation is complete.
We're very encouraged to see the Obama and Quinn Administrations mobilize like never before to try to protect our Great Lakes from Asian carp. The immediate actions to find and kill Asian carp near Lake Michigan appear to be necessary. It is also a reminder, however, of the urgent need to begin planning for a permanent solution - undoing the artificial connection of the Great Lakes and the Illinois/Mississippi watersheds. That will take time and very careful planning, and we need to begin now so this period of occasional poisonings and other short-term measures is as short as possible.