Giant, leaping Asian carp threaten US Great Lakes

A A A

Huge Asian carp, which act like "aquatic vacuum cleaners" and leap into the air when spooked by motorboats, may have invaded the US Great Lakes despite a massive effort to block them, officials said Tuesday.

Researchers analyzing water samples have discovered fragments of Asian carp DNA in Lake Michigan, although there is still no evidence that that fast-breeding fish have breached electric barriers set up along Chicago-area waterways.

"Clearly this is not good news," said Major General John Peabody, commanding general of the US Army Corps of Engineers' Great Lakes and Ohio River division.

The Corps is one of a host of state and federal agencies working to stop the spread of the voracious carp which can grow up to seven feet long (2.1 meters) and weigh 150 pounds (68 kilos).

Federal officials have warned that Asian carp - which have no natural predators - could have a "devastating effect on the Great Lakes ecosystem and a significant economic impact" on the seven-billion-dollar sport and commercial fishing industry.

"From what we have seen in other parts of the country, Asian carp could out-compete our native, sport and commercial fish in southern Lake Michigan," Charlie Wooley, deputy regional director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), said in a statement.

"We call them an aquatic vacuum cleaner because they filter important food resources out of the water and turn it into carp biomass."

It's possible that the DNA discovered in two different samples could come from a decomposed carp which was carried through the electric barriers, officials said.

Or it could come from eggs that were transported on the belly of a bird. Another possibility is that flooding may have allowed the carp may to swim around the barriers.

"The short answer is we just don't know," said FWS spokeswoman Ashley Spratt.

"We have not actually seen live carp above the barrier," she told AFP. "The information we currently have does not suggest they're there in sustainable populations."

Teams will set out on boats as soon as weather allows to search the lake for signs of live carp, and the regional coordinating committee will accelerate its efforts to block their spread, she said.

Officials are considering a number of options including another mass kill through poisoning, sterilizing males to slow breeding, building new electrical barriers and researching other "biological controls."

The test results were released hours after the fight to block the carp was dealt a blow by the US Supreme Court, which refused to force the closure of the Chicago shipping canal system as an emergency measure to stop the invasion.

"The motion of Michigan for preliminary injunction is denied," the Supreme Court wrote in a single line ruling.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox called upon President Barack Obama to use his executive powers to close the locks and said he hoped the Supreme Court would consider the issue more carefully in another pending case.

"I am extremely disappointed the Supreme Court did not push the pause button on this crisis until an effective plan is in place," Cox said in a statement.

"While the injunction would have been an extraordinary step by the court, Michigan and the other Great Lakes states are facing an extraordinary crisis that could forever alter the lakes, permanently killing thousands of jobs at a time when families can least afford it.

Asian carp were originally imported to the southern United States in the 1970s to help keep retention ponds clean at fish farms and waste water treatment plants.

Heavy flooding helped them escape into the Mississippi in the 1990's and they have since migrated into the Missouri and Illinois rivers.

Should they make it into Lake Michigan in large numbers it would be extremely difficult to stop their spread throughout the five interconnected Great Lakes and up into the St. Lawrence Seaway.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride