The silver carp, one of numerous species of the invasive fish, was caught just below a lock and dam on the Little Calumet River, said Charlie Wooly, deputy regional director with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wooly said the fish was found 28 miles above the Army Corps of Engineers’ electric barriers.
“We will be monitoring from the T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam nine miles up towards Lake Michigan and about 16 to 18 miles below the lock and dam to see if there are any more silver carp in the vicinity,” he said.
Wooly said state and federal agencies will do intensive sampling for two weeks. If more fish are found, he said they may use huge nets to capture and clear Asian carp from the area.
Tim Schweizer, spokesman with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said the agency will be bringing in additional boats and crews for the more intense sampling effort over the next couple weeks.
“This is only the second time in eight years of intense sampling in the Chicago area waterway system that silver carp or bighead carp — the two primary species of Asian carp — have been found above the electric dispersal barrier in the Chicago area waterway,” Schweizer said.
A bighead carp was discovered above the barriers in 2010. The silver carp found this week has been sent to Southern Illinois University for testing to determine its origin. Schweizer expects results may be available within the next few weeks or month.
Jennifer Caddick, vice president of communication and engagement with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said the finding highlights the need for urgent action to prevent the fish from entering the Great Lakes. She said that includes release of a draft study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that outlines options for preventing the spread of Asian carp that was originally slated to be revealed earlier this year.
The Army Corps in 2015 was tasked with studying additional protection measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Ill. The facility is a logical choke point location to install control measures to stop the fish from moving closer to the lake.
“The study has been paid for with our taxpayer dollars. It’s ready for public review,” Caddick said. “Unfortunately, its release has been blocked by the Trump administration, so it’s just sitting on a shelf in Washington collecting dust.”
An Army Corps spokeswoman said the draft plan is still being withheld pending further coordination with government and nongovernmental stakeholders.
Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota and Republican Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin are among a bipartisan group of lawmakers that introduced a bill this week that would require release of the study.
“There is no excuse for any further delay — the Trump administration must release the … study so we can get to work on a permanent plan to stop Asian carp from ever devastating our Great Lakes,” Baldwin said Friday in a prepared statement. “I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation requiring the release of this report because Wisconsin communities can’t wait any longer.”
The invasive fish was originally brought to the southern United States in the 1970s for fish farms, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Scientists fear the invasive fish may displace native species in the Great Lakes and destroy the region’s $7 billion fishing industry.
Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at wpr.org/news. The News Tribune contributed to this report.