A Canadian government study (PDF) released yesterday revives fears that Asian Carp will set up a population in Lake Michigan before the federal government takes preemptive action. The report arrives as both the U.S. Congress and five Great Lake states, not including Illinois, push the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), a federal government agency, to take action by the end of 2013.
Released by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a Canadian federal agency, the study finds that Asian carp can survive in Lake Michigan. The carp may be nearby considering the recent findings of their DNA in the Little Calumet River and Lake Calumet.
The study finds that it would take an adult population of 10 males and 10 females for the carp to have a greater than 50 percent chance of successful spawning. Also, Lake Michigan is not too cold for the fish, and there is plenty for the species to eat, the report concludes. “This is a very significant study – it shows we don’t have the luxury of letting a few fish slip into Lake Michigan,” says Thomas Cmar, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council's midwest office.
If carp were let into Lake Michigan, they could possibly destroy Michigan’s fishing industry and local ecology. Also, the fish could make their way to other Great Lakes within the next 20 years, according to the report.
Such warnings add to the fears of the five Great Lake states – Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – that sued USACE.
The lawsuit, awaiting to be heard before a U.S. District Judge, claims that USACE is derelict in dealing with the carp problem. Chicago waterways, for example, were not closed after a 2010 sighting of a bighead Asian carp in Lake Calumet, which is about 50 miles from Lake Michigan.
Jim Diana, a professor at the University of Michigan where he is director of the Michigan Sea Grant program, predicts the lawsuit will be unsuccessful as it is hard to prove federal agency inaction. But, Diana says, the lawsuit is a justified alternative to states simply “waiting for a report from the Corps of Engineers.”
USACE vowed to release a study on what should be done in 2015. USACE has been cautious with their work. For example, studies showing genetic evidence of carp in Lake Calumet have also shown no such traces in Lake Michigan. So the agency is conducting an eDNA calibration study, among its other work, to determine how genetic material might be transferred to areas where no carp have been seen.
However, as we reported last week, Congress is becoming impatient. Lawmakers passed a provision at the end of June instructing the Corps to complete the study by at least 2013. But the Corps might not be legally bound to follow this requirement, according to Cmar.
Illinois has been at odds with other Great Lake states through most of the Asian carp battles, as both the state and Chicago city government do not want to close off Chicago waterways. Illinois officials claim this will be devastating to their shipping industry. The Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is still listed as a defendant in the five-state lawsuit.
However, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) joined other lawmakers in supporting the bill that tells USACE to have a study by the end of next year. “Ultimately, the agency in charge here is the Army Corps of Engineers,” Cmar says.