“Asian carp” refers to several species of related fish, the bighead and silver carp,  originating from Asia. The fish were originally imported in the southern United States to keep aquaculture facilities clean and  provide fresh fish for fish markets. Unfortunately, Bighead and silver carp escaped into the wild in the 1980s and have been swimming north ever since, taking over the Mississippi and Illinois River systems.

 

The Threat

Asian carp have been found in the Illinois River, which connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan. Due to their large size, aggressive nature and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could significantly disrupt the Great Lakes ecosystem.  Scientists are concerned that the carp will force some native lake species into extinction, reduce the number of fish in the lakes as well as affect the economy of the Great Lakes.

To prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, the State of Illinois, the International Joint Commission,  Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together to install and maintain a permanent electric barrier between the fish and Lake Michigan.

Opponents of the project don’t want the Mississippi River and Great Lakes to be permanently and physically separated, but many researchers in the U.S. and Canada believe it’s the only solution.