Killing Carp: Chicago Canal Poisoned to Keep Invasive Fish Out of Great Lakes

NRDC Joins Michigan in Calling for Real Solutions to the Asian Carp Problem

CHICAGO (December 2, 2009) -- State and Federal agencies have begun poisoning a nearly 6-mile stretch of the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal to kill off invasive Asian carp while maintenance is performed on an electrical barrier intended to keep the fish out of Lake Michigan. The Lake’s ecosystem is already irreparably damaged by invasive species making the introduction of these new invasive fish a dire threat to the entire Great Lakes system. The fish can grow to 100 pounds in size and out-compete native species in an ecosystem due to their prolific breeding and ability to filter feed 40% of their body weight on a daily basis. Underscoring the threat, Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan today called for the re-opening of a nearly century-old case sitting before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Chicago Diversion to force immediate action around the carp issue.

Following is a statementfrom Henry Henderson, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest Program (and a former Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago):

“Nobody wants to see 200,000 pounds of dead fish hauled out of the water, but the alternative is far worse. This is a desperate, last ditch attempt to protect Lake Michigan, but more proactive efforts should have been made to stave off this threat.

“The problem does not go away after the poison has floated down the canal. It will require proactive and thoughtful action -- two things that have been scarce during this slow motion disaster. In the short-term we need to close the locks and put protections in place on the waterways with no barriers. But the carp will continue to come up the Illinois River until we re-establish the natural barriers that once protected the Lakes. Until that happens, the Great Lakes will continue to be threatened. No poisoning can fix this issue and the problem will not be solved until we’ve closed the door on these fish.

“We support the call from Governor Granholm of Michigan to re-open the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of threats posed by the Chicago Diversion to the well-being of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The other Great Lakes states should join Michigan in pursuing all available legal steps to permanently separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed.

“There are legitimate shipping and business concerns about the impact that this would have on barge traffic. You would hope that these would be short delays -- but frankly the interests of the multi-billion dollar fishing industry and the quality of 1/5 of the world’s fresh water should really take precedence.”

More information on solutions to this issue can be found on NRDC’s Switchboard blog at: