Poison dumped into Illinois river in latest battle against Asian carp

May 21, 2010 By Joel Hood, Chicago Tribune

The Little Calumet River became the latest battleground against Asian carp Thursday as work crews dumped barrels of a deadly fish toxin in a desperate attempt to locate the elusive invasive species in Chicago's waterways.

"If there are here we should get confirmation of that this week," John Rogner, assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said during a morning news conference along the canal.

Officials targeted this two-mile stretch of the Calumet-Sag Channel, about seven miles west of Lake Michigan, because numerous collected here have indicated the presence of Asian carp. But no one has yet seen an Asian carp, alive or dead, making this an important staging area to not only test the validity of the DNA research, but also to gauge how imminent a threat the carp are to the Great Lakes.

Biologists dumped about 2,000 gallons of the organic fish poison Rotenone into the channel Thursday and are expected to search for Asian carp over the next several days as dead fish float to the surface. The federal government is picking up the estimated $1.5 million price tag for the mission, which likely will kill thousands of fish and shut down a vital shipping corridor for about a week.

The steep costs, both economically and environmentally, underscore the importance of locating Asian carp if they are indeed on Lake Michigan's doorstep, said Charlie Wooley, the Midwest deputy director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"This is as good as an effort as we could possibly come up with," Wooley said. "If we don't find any Asian carp through this sampling I can assure you we've given it our best shot."

The recovery of even one Asian carp this close to Lake Michigan could have far-reaching implications for the legal and political fight around this issue. It would surely spark new calls to permanently close Chicago-area locks to seal off the most direct route for the into the Great Lakes.

It would also raise serious questions about the effectiveness of the underwater electric barriers near Romeoville, Ill., and could even trigger a new round of lawsuits and calls for action in Washington, D.C.

If biologists don't find a single Asian carp -- after failing to locate one during weeks of netting and electrofishing in the same area this year -- it would raise further questions about the DNA science already under scrutiny. It would also bolster claims by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Army Corps of Engineers and others that say methods to control the fish's movement are working.

Wooley said if no Asian carp surface this week it should effectively shift the entire battle 40 miles downriver to behind the electric barriers, where officials are working on new attack plans to eradicate them.

"It's our hope they come up empty here so we can move this (battle) down where it belongs," Wooley said.

Explore further: Carp barriers to Great Lakes may fall


Related Stories

Illinois to poison canal in hopes of killing invasive carp

December 2, 2009

The largest fish kill in Illinois history -- expected to net 100 tons of fish including, hopefully, some Asian carp -- is to start Wednesday south of Chicago in an attempt to make sure none of the feared carp make it past ...

No Asian carp found yet in Ill. fish kill

December 3, 2009

(AP) -- No Asian carp have been spotted so far in a Chicago canal during a massive fish kill aimed at trying to keep the giant fish out of the Great Lakes.

Wildlife officials search for carp in Chicago area

February 17, 2010

(AP) -- Armed with sprawling fishing nets and boats equipped with electric prods, state and federal fisheries biologists began a "search-and-destroy" mission in Chicago-area waterways Wednesday aimed at rooting out the dreaded ...

6-week search finds no Asian carp near Chicago

March 29, 2010

(AP) -- An initial six-week mission to catch and kill Asian carp lurking on the Great Lakes' doorstep turned up none of the despised fish, suggesting few if any have eluded an electric barrier designed to block their path ...

Recommended for you

Trap-jaw ants exhibit previously unseen jumping behavior

December 1, 2015

A species of trap-jaw ant has been found to exhibit a previously unseen jumping behavior, using its legs rather than its powerful jaws. The discovery makes this species, Odontomachus rixosus, the only species of ant that ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.