Posted By LeAnn Wallace
Asian carp may soon be invading the great lakes.
In an effort to prevent the invasive species from getting into the great lakes an electronic barrier was installed between the Chicago Shipping
canal and Lake Michigan in 2002.
Now officials with the army corps of engineers say the DNA of the giant fish have been found beyond that barrier.
If further studies confirm that they have breached the barrier, officials say there's no stopping them from making their way through the entire great lakes chain.
"There's really nothing that's stopping the big head or silver carp from getting into Lake Superior if they get into Lake Michigan," says Doug Jensen, Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator for the University of Minnesota Sergeant Program.
These two species of Asian carp were imported by catfish farmers in the 1970's to remove algae out of their ponds.
During large floods in the early 1990s, many of the catfish farm ponds overflowed and the Asian carp were released into waterways in the Mississippi River basin, moving North ever since.
"They can travel long distances in very short periods of time, up to 250 miles within a year."
Officials fear the Asian carp could out compete native Great Lakes species for food if infested.
"They can feed on plankton and consume copious amounts, I mean just tremendous amounts of plankton so it basically undercuts the food chain and so they're taking away food from out native fish like big mouth buffalo and paddle fish."
Officials say these invasive species could jeopardize the multi–billion dollar fishery sport.
"You might think this is a fisherman's dream but it's really not because people can become seriously injured when these fish run into them," says Jensen.
Officials still aren't sure if or how these invasive species got through the electronic barrier but the area will continue to be monitored while researchers gather near real–time data on the current location of Asian carp.
Researchers are considering several options going forward – including looking at additional DNA samples, doubling the power of the electric barrier, and using a toxant to kill all of the fish in the particular area to temporarily prevent them from moving upstream.