Great Lakes
Garret Ellison | MLive Asian carp at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Asian carp DNA hits spike in Chicago River

CHICAGO, IL — Wildlife agencies are stepping up waterway testing efforts following a spike in invasive Asian carp DNA detections in the Chicago River about five miles from Lake Michigan.

On Friday, Nov. 1, state and federal officials announced plans for a two-week intensive sampling effort in the Chicago River’s south branch after routine fall testing yielded 76 hits of environmental DNA, or eDNA, for silver and bighead carp.

The hits came from Bubbly Creek, a nickname for the south fork of the river’s south branch located in the city of Chicago.

The “proximity and abundance” of eDNA hits – 49 for silver and 27 for bighead carp — “are much higher than values seen previously in this area,” according to a joint news release by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The wildlife service collected 414 samples between Oct. 8 and 10 in the Chicago Area Waterway System downstream of electronic barriers that are supposed to block the invasive fish from reaching Lake Michigan and spreading throughout the Great Lakes basin.

No live fish were found. No other waterways tested positive for carp DNA.

No live fish were found. No other waterways tested positive for carp DNA.

Asian carp eDNA hits
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found 76 hits of environmental DNA, or eDNA, for silver and bighead carp in Chicago's Bubbly Creek in October 2019.

Invasive silver and bighead carp are seen as a major threat to the Great Lakes fishing industry because they outcompete native species for food and habitat. The fish are also considered a safety threat to boaters because they leap from the water when startled.

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