CHICAGO- The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) today detailed the results of intensive monitoring efforts in and around Lake Calumet within the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) and announced no Asian carp were seen or captured during a four-day response.
The ACRCC began a Level 1 monitoring response under its Monitoring and Rapid Response Plan on Monday, August 1, after three consecutive rounds of Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling yielded positive results for Asian carp DNA in and around Lake Calumet. At present, eDNA evidence cannot verify whether live Asian carp are present, whether the DNA may have come from a dead fish, or whether water containing Asian carp DNA may have been transported from other sources, such as bilge water. While the Lake Calumet area is regularly monitored for the presence of Asian carp, a Level 1 response intensified efforts over a four-day period of time with commercial fishing crews, electrofishing boats, larger sweeping nets called seines, and additional sampling gear such as tandem trap nets and hydro acoustic surveys to determine whether live Asian carp were present in the area.
“Our rapid response plan did what it was designed to do – use aggressive monitoring and the best available technology to confirm there is no establishing population of Asian carp above the electric barrier. We will continue to follow our comprehensive Asian carp control strategy to aggressively monitor the Chicago Area Waterway System, ensure the security of the electric barrier, and use and develop the most advanced technologies to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp,” said John Goss, Asian Carp Director for the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
The Lake Calumet response action concluded on August 4, 2011 after more than 1,066 person-hours on the water using a crew of 38 state and Federal agency biologists and commercial fishermen aboard 11 vessels. A variety of nets and methods were used during the operation, including gill/trammel netting, electrofishing, tandem-trap netting, and hydro acoustic surveys. In total, crews fished more than 11 miles of gill/trammel nets, eight fyke nets, and completed 22.5 hours of electrofishing. In all, 8,668 fish were collected, including large numbers of buffalo and gizzard shad, indicating that fish that share Asian carp habitat preferences were being trapped and identified.
“These crews worked tirelessly during this operation using the best fishing techniques available to try to find Asian carp. The fact that none were found further supports what we have believed for some time – if there are any Asian carp in this area above the barrier, they are there in very small numbers,” said Illinois Department of Natural resources Assistant Director John Rogner.
The monitoring response was designed to intensify resources and use the best available technology to search for live Asian carp in the Lake Calumet area. Eight previous monitoring trips to Lake Calumet since March 2011 with various agencies electrofishing and using contracted commercial fishers have identified 4,500 fish and indicated no Asian carp presence.
The ACRCC remains vigilant in continually confirming the effectiveness of the electric barrier, including implementing new Didson camera technology, telemetery, and other barrier defense and monitoring actions. The ACRCC continues to assess and prevent all possible modes of travel for Asian carp to Lake Calumet, including human release of live carp, flood connections between area lakes and the CAWS, and the possibility a small number of Asian carp traveling to the area prior to the 2002 installation of the electric barrier. Extensive ACRCC monitoring using the best available technologies and expert fish biologists has consistently indicated that if any Asian carp are present above the electric barrier in the CAWS, they exist in extremely low numbers that do not approach the levels necessary for them to establish a population.
The threat from Asian carp has generated an urgent and committed government response. In addition to aggressive monitoring and sampling, the ACRCC has proactively worked to contain Asian carp in the Chicago Area Waterway System by constructing a third electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, constructing a 13-mile physical barrier along the Des Plaines River to prevent fish bypass during flooding, and researching control technology and methods that can be tailored and applied to control Asian carp.
The Obama Administration also remains focused on preventing Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through all possible pathways. The ACRCC released an “Other Pathways” study in December 2010 to identify and close off other potential aquatic pathways where Asian carp could enter the Great Lakes basin; constructed a 1,500 foot fish barrier fence at Eagle Marsh in Indiana to prevent fish from migrating from the Wabash River into the Great Lakes watershed; and continues to develop the Great Lakes Mississippi River Interbasin Study to assess threats throughout the basin, including in the CAWS.
The Obama Administration formed the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee in 2009 to ensure coordinated and comprehensive action against Asian carp. The ACRCC is led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation and all eight Great Lakes states, as well as the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and the City of Chicago.
Asian carp monitoring and response activities are Federally funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Federal agency budgets.
To read the 2011 Monitoring and Rapid Response Plan or for more information on the 2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework, visit: www.asiancarp.org