Flying Fish Are Making Their Way Towards the Great Lakes

Kristy Meyer, October 31, 2017

This Halloween, there is something much more sinister than witches, ghosts, and goblins trying to haunt Ohio. There are ghoulish 40-pound destructive fish that eat like hogs, lay up to 5 million eggs at one time, and are casting a terrifying shadow over the Great Lakes. These fish are known as invasive carp.

There are four species that are currently considered invasive and a potential threat to the Great Lakes, but two are currently of grave concern – silver and bighead.

The Origin Story

Like most nightmares, invasive carp’s entry to the U.S. was paved with good intentions. These monstrous fish were introduced to clean fish ponds and retention ponds in the South.

But, one stormy day, the ponds flooded, and the fish escaped into the Mississippi River. They have been swimming north ever since. Now, they are knocking on the door of the Great Lakes, which are artificially connected to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

An invasive carp invasion would have disastrous results for our lakes and waterways by:

  • Out-competing native fish for food and habitat, like perch, bass, and walleye and causing an entire system to become depauperate.
  • Devastating Lake Erie industry. Their infiltration puts Lake Erie’s $1 billion fishing industry, 120,000 tourism-related jobs, and $14 billion in annual revenue at risk.
  • Causing physical harm to adults and children. These 40-100 pound fish can leap several feet into the air when disturbed by boats and have been known to break collar bones.

Sign our petition to stop invasive carp!

Sever it at the source

With the threat spreading quickly, some states, like Ohio, have severed their connections to infested watersheds. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has been working to permanently cut-off the three connections between Lake Erie and the Ohio River watersheds.

​The largest artificial connector, which joins Lake Michigan to the Mississippi watershed, is the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). Electrical barriers are used within the CAWS to hold back invasive carp.

Even electricity cannot hold these marauding munchers at bay. Over the summer, an adult silver carp was found past the electrical barriers just 9 miles from Lake Michigan. Clearly, current measures to deter invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes are not failproof.

A Silver Bullet Against Silver Carp

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet, but the Brandon Road Lock and Dam plan, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) released after years of studies, is a good start for defending the Great Lakes.

After a five-month delay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) released their plan for additional invasive carp protections at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, IL thanks to public pressure from members of Congress and thousands of residents across the Great Lakes region.

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam is a logical choke point location to install additional intermediate control measures to stop invasive carp from advancing towards Lake Michigan. Their recommended combination of technologies was selected because, together, they provide the greatest protection against invasive carp while still keeping navigation open.

This plan is not a permanent fix and no solutions within the plan should be overlooked, but with so much at stake we do not have time to lose.

Scream and shout. Make your voice heard!

The Army Corps is seeking public comments until November 16th. If you want to stop invasive carp, join our petition demanding the Army Corp prioritize implementation of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam plan.

The Army Corps is holding a public comment period through November 16th with a second draft forecasted for August 2018. The plan must then go through an internal process review, scheduled for February of 2019, at which time a state and agency review will begin. A final draft is expected in August of 2019 and then will be submitted to Congress for authorization of funding.   

Train on fire with flames and smoke engolfing it. Text reads