Zap! for good fish in prep for Little Cal fish kill

CHICAGO (CBS) ―Biologists are waging chemical warfare against Asian carp in the Little Calumet River Thursday morning, but first, they must remove the good fish from the water.

As Kris Habermehl reports from Chopper 2 HD, crews from various environmental authorities gathered at the Thomas J. O’Brien Lock and Dam at 134th Street. They are sending electrical current through the water, so as to stun the fish so they can be removed before toxic chemicals are introduced.

The last fish kill was in the Sanitary & Ship Canal in December of last year. But unlike in that case, there are sport fishermen who use the Little Calumet. For that reason, desirable fish must be removed first.

To that end, crews aboard motorboats are placing probes in the water, which will send out the electric current.

The current will stun the fish, which will float to the surface. They will be gathered in nets and placed on the other side of a barrier where they will be protected from the poison.

In two weeks, the fish toxin rotenone will be poured into the river. It will require the waterway in the area to be shut down for as many as six days.

The barrier will be removed after the poison dissipates – a period of about 48 hours.

The effort is disruptive for business on the river, critics say.

“It takes 21 days for a barge to travel from New Orleans to Chicago,” Mark Biel, Executive Director of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, said in a news release. “Even temporary closures can cause freight to backup for weeks. Goods traveling the length of the river system might not arrive for well over a month under these circumstances, wreaking havoc on companies who depend on ‘just in time’ inventory to function. Operators just can’t afford to be shut down unexpectedly in this economy.”

The O’Brien Lock is just seven miles from Lake Michigan. Asian carp DNA has been found nearby.

In the December fish kill in the Sanitary & Ship Canal, only one Asian carp was found.

Beginning next Tuesday, officials will also close a portion of the North Shore Channel, near Oakton Street. It will remain closed for three days so experts can trap fish to see if any Asian carp have made it to that part of the region’s river system.

The State of Michigan has filed a lawsuit asking for an order to close the locks on the Sanitary & Ship Canal, so as to keep the fish out of the Great Lakes. Michigan officials argue that the ravenous carp, which weigh up to 100 pounds, could decimate the lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry by starving out competitors such as salmon and walleye.

The states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York support the lawsuit. But the U.S. Supreme Court so far has declined to hear it.

Read the original article from WBBM News Radio.

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