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Great Lakes Article:

Empty Net is Good News in Search for Asian Carp
By James Janega
Chicago Tribune
Published June 15, 2006

Wildlife managers dreading the spread of the Asian carp breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday when they could find none of the voracious fish closer to Chicago and the Great Lakes than Joliet.

The spot where the fish were found, south of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam--about 50 miles from the mouth of the Chicago River and the Great Lakes--still gives the carp access to the Kankakee River, however. Survey teams will continue their annual search for the carp and other invasive species until Friday.

While crews Wednesday were finding the oily, fat carp in familiar spots on the Illinois River near Morris, they have so far failed to find it north of the Brandon Road lock.

"No news is good news, I guess," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project leader Pamella A. Thiel said Wednesday aboard a johnboat on the Calumet Sag Channel, a tub full of common carp flopping at her feet.

While searching for Asian carp, the crews also are sampling the health of fish they do catch, looking for a host of waterborne parasites, pathogens and viruses.

Among the things they are looking for is evidence of carp virus, considered among the possibilities for an Asian carp die-off noticed May 30 between Havana and Spring Valley. Definitive word on what caused the die-off will come with lab results next month, Thiel said.

The annual scouring of Illinois waterways started in 1996, when wildlife managers began gauging the spread of the invasive round goby, a ship ballast-tank stowaway from the Black Sea now working its way from the Great Lakes toward the Mississippi River.

The goby was bad enough--in some parts of Lake Michigan, 40 to 70 of the finger-size eating machines crowd areas the size of a bathtub. Then the wildlife managers found the Asian carp working its way north and added the much larger fish to their list of concerns.

Since 2000, they've charted the carp's progress up the Illinois River from Hennepin to Morris to Channahon. By 2002, the fish had slipped through the Dresden locks. They have lingered there since.

This year, Fish and Wildlife workers, with 13 partner organizations that include government agencies, the Shedd Aquarium and Joliet Community College, are hoping the carp will have inched no farther north than the Brandon Road lock and dam, just south of Joliet.

Beyond that, two electrical fish barriers--one not yet working, the other badly corroding--have been strung in the carp's path to the Chicago and Calumet Rivers.

A barrier was sunk into the Sanitary and Ship Canal near Romeoville in 2002 to stop the gobies from marching southward, but was placed uselessly behind them. Since then, the barrier has become a last line of defense against the northward advance of the Asian carp. A new barrier three times as big--and much sturdier--was put in next to it recently, but it has not yet been switched on.

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jjanega@tribune.com

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune


 

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