Native Village
Youth and Education news
 APRIL 1, 2010 Volume 3

Carp DNA: Researchers treat lake like a crime scene,0,3687170.story

Condensed by Native Village

Illinois -- Welcome to CSI: Lake Michigan. Asian carp have turned the entire Great Lakes watershed into a crime scene.

Asian carp are invading the rivers and channels flowing into Lake Michigan.
 These giant fish with giant appetites have no predators and little worth as commercial or sport fish. The destructive fish now dominate the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and tributaries and have entered the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC).  The canal links the Mississippi River system and the Great Lakes. 

Biologists are now using Asian carp DNA to fight back. 

Asian leave behind tiny cells as they move through the water. These cells from fish scales, feces and urine contain  DNA and enable scientists to track their movement.

While the CSSC built an electric barrier to stop the carp's advance, carp DNA has been found north of a CSSC barrier.

The fish are now 8 miles from Lake Michigan. Now, the only thing standing between the carp and Lake Michigan are a few heavily used navigational locks, which conservations want shut down.

"We've got a chance to beat this thing, but we've got to do everything right," says Joel Brammeier from the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Since summer, researchers have collected more than 700 DNA samples from Chicago waterways.  When Asian carp DNA is detected, the results are verified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"As a tool, we're excited by what (eDNA) has been able to show us," said Lindsay Chadderton from the Nature Conservancy. "But the results have been bittersweet since it's showing us something we never wanted to see."

Once inside a Great Lake, the carp would have free rein in the world's largest freshwater ecosystem. This would endanger native fish and a $7,000,000,000 fishing and recreation industry.

The Asian carp crisis has hit the national spotlight and caught the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court and the White House. Congress has ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to study the issue.

"We have to take care of this problem permanently," says Marc Gaden from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. "We need pure biological separation between the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes basin."

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