Asian Carp Continue to Threaten Great Lakes Ecosystem

by Jim Lockefeer for SUST 210

It appears that the invasive fish known as Asian carp are making their way to Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes. According to an article posted on the Daily Herald’s website on November 6th, 2013, Asian carp DNA has been found and detected in Lake Michigan. Asian carp are huge, plankton-eating, and fast-reproducing fish that are known around the Midwest because of their sheer numbers and their ability to leap out of the water when startled from boat engines.

Silver carp jumping out of the Illinois River near Havana, IL (Source:

Silver carp jumping out of the Illinois River near Havana, IL

Both of these non-native, invasive species — bighead and silver carp — come from Southeast Asia; they were brought to the Southern US in the 1970s and were placed in fish farm ponds to control algal growth. They soon, however, escaped the confines of these aquaculture operations, spread across much of the central US, and are currently found in the Mississippi River, Illinois River, and in the waters of 23 states.

According to this article it’s unknown whether or not this DNA sample came from an a live fish or not. Chris Jerde, a Notre Dame biologist, compares this sample to a “smoke detector” and if a few more samples are found it will lead to a “fire.” Whether these samples came from alive or dead Asian carp, one thing is for sure: they are a huge environmental and economic threat and are on the verge of invading Lake Michigan.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

These fish are known to be very adaptable, aggressive, and fast-growing, and thus are already a serious threat to many rivers and lakes. Because of these characteristics, Asian carp are out-competing many native fish species for food and habitat, which causes a huge strain on ecosystems. US Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, has even gone as far to say, “These fish could destroy the Great Lakes ecosystem, as well as boating and fishing industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Stabenow isn’t the only government official that has voiced her opinion on the matter and called for action. In fact an article was posted on the Daily Herald a day after (November 7th) the article above was posted, explaining how all 16 US senators from the Great Lakes states are urging quick action to stop the movement of these carp from entering the Great Lakes. As of now all we can hope for is that this DNA sample that was found is only just a “smoke detector” that has actually made this serious matter more urgent to discuss and eventually combat.

Each week during the Fall 2013 semester, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 210 Sustainable Future online class at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts on suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website. For more on the threat posed by Asian carp to the Great Lakes ecosystem, see these posts on Prof. Mike Bryson’s faculty website, as well as these articles on the SUST at RU blog.


About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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