Army Corps to sample 2 Indiana rivers for signs of invasive carp
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to collect water samples this spring from two northwestern Indiana rivers that flow into Lake Michigan as part of its ongoing efforts to track the spread of invasive Asian carp.
Major Gen. John Peabody of the Army Corps’ Cincinnati office said samples will be taken from Indiana’s portions of the Grand Calumet and Little Calumet rivers once ice melts and fish become more active.
“Our intent is to aggressively sample when warmer weather and higher fish activity returns. The fish don’t move a whole lot in the wintertime,” Peabody said Wednesday.
The Corps hopes to have a plan in place with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources within two months to sample water in the rivers, which flow into Lake Michigan.
Asian carp, primarily the bighead and silver varieties, have been migrating up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers toward the Great Lakes for decades and have swarmed waterways near Chicago leading to Lake Michigan. Environmentalists fear the Great Lakes’ fishing industry will be devastated if the ravenous species takes hold because Asian carp devour the plankton that are the base of the Great Lakes food chain.
The Corps has been scouring Great Lakes waterways for Asian carp DNA – in fish excrement, slime and other materials – to track the species’ movement. Federal officials said Tuesday that Asian carp DNA had been found for the first time in the lake at Calumet Harbor in Illinois, which is close to the Indiana state line.
No live or dead Asian carp have been spotted in the lake yet.
To date, Peabody said about 1,100 samples have been taken from Great Lakes waterways and about 700 had been analyzed, with about 5 percent coming back positive for Asian carp DNA.
All of the samples are being analyzed by a University of Notre Dame laboratory run by David Lodge, a professor of biological sciences whose lab is equipped with sophisticated genetic analysis tools.
Lodge said his staff and others, including volunteers from The Nature Conservancy, “has more than kept up” with the Army Corps’ schedule for analyzing the samples. The federal agency is paying for the testing of the samples.
Once more money becomes available, Lodge said his lab will be able to complete analysis of about 400 samples that Peabody said are pending.
Lodge said the tools he uses in his lab are similar to what crime investigators use. They scour the water samples for trace genetic materials, which he says he suspects comes from fish waste in most cases. Positive test results don’t reveal the extent or presence of carp population in any particular waterway, he said.
And he said it’s unclear what the impact would be if the Asian carp establish a foothold in the Great Lakes.
“It’s a bit like playing Russian roulette with the Great Lakes. The harm could be relatively small, certainly in some parts of the Great Lakes, but it’s very easy to imagine some catastrophic results for fisheries in at least part of the Great Lakes,” Lodge said.
Indiana DNR spokesman Phil Bloom said Wednesday that while Indiana has only about 43 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the state’s sports fishing industry on the lake generates $5 million to $6 million annually.
Last year, the state stocked more than 1 million sport fish – coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead and brown trout, perch and smallmouth bass – in the lake and Indiana tributaries.
© 2010 The Associated Press.