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Agencies report to Congress on Asian carp control efforts

Grass carp
Grass carp

There are several federal agencies in charge of trying to control Asian carp, and they just came out with their latest report to Congress on how those efforts are going.

Charlie Wooley is the Midwest Deputy Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He says this report focuses on the upper Mississippi River and the Ohio River basins.

“What we saw was that unfortunately, we have had movement of adult silver carp up the Ohio River, getting closer and closer towards Pennsylvania,” says Wooley.

“And then on the Mississippi River, we had a bighead carp and grass carp caught in the Minnesota River, and that’s not good because that’s about a hundred miles north of the previous capture in the Mississippi River.”

Many people are worried about the live silver carp that was caught above the electric barriers near Chicago, nine miles from Lake Michigan this June.

Wooley says the Fish and Wildlife Service hasn’t learned how the fish got past the barrier yet, but they’re still investigating in the area.

“We’ve been looking and spending a lot of time sampling in that area. We sampled above the Army Corps' electrical barrier, we sampled in close proximity to where this fish was captured in June, we have just used every bit of sampling equipment we have at our disposal and we have not seen another silver carp in this area,” he says.

He says his agency hasn't seen any other evidence of range expansion in the Great Lakes region, but there are concerns about grass carp reproducing in the Lake Erie basin. Grass carp are already in the Lakes, but for years, they were thought to only be in a sterile form.

Wooley says there are signs that grass carp have been spawning naturally in western Lake Erie.

“We’re in the process of working very closely with Michigan DNR and Ohio DNR to look at some ways to potentially reduce those fish, particularly in the springtime when they’re spawning,” he says.

Some groups have been critical of the federal government’s efforts, saying it's taking too long to put in new control measures to keep carp out of the Great Lakes.

Jennifer Caddick is a spokeswoman for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. She calls the carp caught above the barriers this summer a serious warning sign.

"This is proof that Asian carp - which we've known for a while, but this is hard proof - that they can get through those electric barriers, and we need our agencies to move as quickly as possible to install additional protection measures,"she says.

Wooley says he understands those concerns, but he argues this is a process that requires some patience.

“You have to have thought about what you want to accomplish both to allow barge traffic to move through a barrier safely, as well as being able to control Asian carp. You have to worry about long-term maintenance, you have to design something that’s going to last a hundred years. That’s complicated,” he says.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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