One of the Asian carp that has reproduced in abundance on the Illinois River. Eyes are downward aimed because they are bottom feeders. This one was caught in the tributaries of the Illinois River at Havana, IL. / Richard Lee/Detroit Free Press
ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WZZM) -- The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is preparing for a possible invasion of Asian carp. Tuesday, fisheries staff from across the state gathered for a field exercise along the St. Joseph River.
"What we're doing is giving crews the opportunity to simulate and practice some catching techniques they might use to find silver or big head carp in the one of the river systems," said Tom Goniea, a biologist with the DNR.
Asian carp present a threat to the ecosystem and Michigan's billion-dollar fishing industry. It's already devastated parts of Illinois, where the fish have taken over the river. The smaller silver carp jump out of the water, presenting a danger to boaters. The larger bighead carp are voracious eaters and have no predators. The fear is that the invasive species of fish could make their way into Lake Michigan via the Sanitary Shipping Canal near Chicago.
"There is an electric barrier in place, but things always have a way of not being 100% effective, so that's a big concern," says Tammy Newcomb, water policy advisor for the DNR.
On the St. Joseph River, crews are using common carp, which are already present but not a threat to the environment. "It's similar in size, both can get up to 25 pounds. It's a good surrogate for us to practice with," says Goniea.
Crews are using electro-shocking boats to bring the fish to the surface. They are also placing gill nets up and down the river. Whatever proves to be the most efficient technique of capturing the fish will help them in the event of a real emergency.
"We will do everything we can to eradicate and contain any spread that they could have," says Newcomb.
Part of the St. Joseph River will remain closed through 11 p.m. Wednesday for the exercise.