Scientists to Search for Asian Carp in Chicago River

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According to the Associated Press, scientists are launching yet another search for Asian carp in Chicago-area waters after 17 out 57 samples taken from the Chicago River tested positive for Asian carp DNA. Chicago and Illinois have been fighting hard through various methods to keep the highly invasive fish from spreading even further throughout the state and city's waterways.

Here are some facts about the search and the Asian carp itself, including its impacts on ecosystems and its status in Illinois:

* The next search for Asian carp will occur Oct. 16-19 and will take place in a six-mile length of the Chicago River starting near the downtown lock, as well as the North Shore channel.

* Fishing crews will place nets in the water and other workers will corral fish into the nets in order to obtain a species sample.

* The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that the Asian carp has already been found in the Illinois River, a key waterway that connects Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.

* Native to Southeast Asia, the Asian carp were deliberately imported to the southern U.S. in the 1970s to help with aquaculture operations and pond maintenance but flooding allowed the fish to escape and invade the Mississippi River, noted the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

* Asian carp are extremely harmful to aquatic ecosystems and the economy since they often out-compete native fish species for food.

* In order to prevent the fish from spreading further, physical and electric barriers have been set up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

* The National Wildlife Federation noted that the fish are well-known for their skittishness and have been seen leaping out of the water when startled by boat engines and other loud and sudden noises.

* Additionally, the fish are filter feeders, mostly feeding on plankton and in some cases can grow to weigh more than 100 pounds.

* The term "Asian carp" refers to several distinct species: bighead carp, black carp, grass carp, silver carp, and large-scale silver carp, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

* The U.S. Geological Survey added that the fish are commonly 24-30 inches in length and weigh 3-10 pounds.

* Large warm-water rivers provide the best habitat for Asian carp, making Illinois' waterways extremely susceptible.

* This past summer, Asian carp DNA was found in Chicago's Lake Calumet, but a search revealed no evidence of the actual fish, reported the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

* Positive DNA samples do not always yield the presence of a species as DNA can be from waters transferred by ships or the excrement from other animals that may have consumed the fish at some point.

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. Currently pursuing her master's degree in environmental science, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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