Illinois fisheries biologists netted two Asian carp in a Chicago lagoon as part of a stepped-up effort to track and remove the invasive species from Illinois waterways.
The bighead carp found in the Garfield Park Lagoon were about 60 pounds each and probably had been there for many years, perhaps brought there when the pond was stocked or by a fisherman's bait bucket, state Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris McCloud said.
The lagoon is not connected to Lake Michigan or canals that connect the lake to the Illinois River, and the fish couldn't have gotten out on their own and could not breed in the still water, McCloud said. But the DNR wants to find and remove any live bighead or silver carp in the Chicago area.
"From public fishing ponds to fish markets, we need to find and remove live Asian carp from these systems in order to minimize their spread," said John Rogner, assistant DNR director.
The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee plans to spend $12 million this year on efforts to stop the voracious eaters from reaching Lake Michigan, where scientists fear they could out-compete native fish for food and wreak havoc on the Great Lakes fishing industry. Plans include sampling urban fishing ponds, surveying fish markets for live fish, and random electrofishing and netting along a network of canals that connect Lake Michigan to the Illinois River.
Earlier this month the Obama administration promised to speed up its search for a way to stop Asian carp and other invasive species from using those waterways to travel between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would release a short list of options by the end of next year.
Environmental activists and many elected officials say the only certain solution is physically separating the two giant drainage basins by placing dams or other structures at key points in Chicago-area waterways that form a direct link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi. That method is sought in a federal lawsuit filed by Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.