September 30, 2009

Scientists fight back on giant Asian carp

Lake Michigan's food chain is under threat from an invasive fish and biologists are working on ways to keep it out of the lake, university scientists say.

A $9 million electric fish barrier keeps Asian carp from migrating between the Mississippi River and the lake and the Army Corps of Engineers just boosted the power, the Milwaukee Journal Gazette reported Wednesday. However, the giant fish are also in the Des Plaines River, which has a history of breaching its banks and flooding into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which provides access into the lake.

The distance between the Des Plaines and the canal is only a few yards in places and Lake Michigan is 20 miles due north.

The biggest risk right now is the Des Plaines River, and if we get a (big rain) like we did last year, they could very well go over the wall, said Phil Moy, co-chairman of the advisory panel working with the Army Corps to find a solution.

The fish grow to more than 50 pounds and are ravenous filter feeders, eating up to 20 percent of their body weight in plankton per day. Almost all other fish species in the lakes depend on that plankton.

Great Lakes restoration officials say they hope to receive between $400 million and $475 million in federal funds, part of which would be used to try to keep the Asian carp out of Lake Michigan.