Collection of Engaged Learning


Yeojin Chung

Publication Date



Bighead carp and silver carp (Invader Species – Asian Carp) invaded the Illinois River waterway over a decade ago. Populations of these fishes have apparently grown dense in the lower and middle Illinois Rivers and both species are approaching the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) and potentially making their way into Great Lakes. So far, positive DNA of Asian Carp has been found beyond the defensive electrical barrier, which means they have made their way to Great Lakes somehow. Asian Carp are fast growing, aggressive, and adaptable fish that are outcompeting native fish species for food and habitat in much of the mid-section of the United States. Asian Carp were imported into the U.S. in the 1970s to filter pond water in fish farms in Arkansas. Flooding allowed them to escape and establish reproducing populations in the wild by the early 1980s. At present, bighead carp have been found in the open waters of 23 states and silver carp in 17 states.

Asian Carp represent over 97% of the biomass in portions of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and are swiftly spreading northward up the Illinois River in the direction of the Great Lakes. They are now on the verge of invading the Great Lakes.

Asian carp are advancing towards the Great Lakes at multiple locations. The CAWS, a series of sewage and shipping canals, is the pathway of greatest concern for Asian Carp to enter the Great Lakes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains three electric barriers to prevent Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan, but these barriers are only temporary impediments and have proven to be penetrable.

Alive bighead carp was discovered only 6 miles from Lake Michigan near Chicago. One bighead carp was found in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, just below the first electric barrier. DNA evidence has been found in multiple locations on the Lake Michigan side of the barriers. Asian Carp eggs, fry and fingerlings were found in the Wabash River in Indiana. There is acute risk of the Wabash River flooding into the Maumee River, which leads directly into Lake Eria. The temperatures in the Great Lakes are well within the fishes’ native climate range. Parts of the Great Lakes, including nutrient-rich bays, tributaries and other near0shore areas, would offer Asian Carp an abundant supply of their preferred food, plankton; plankton is also favored by most young and many adult native fishes and the voracious carp would likely strip the food web of this fundamental resource. The U.S. Geological Survey has identified 22 rivers in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes that would provide suitable spawning habitat for Asian Carp.

Document Type



Asian Carp, fish, Engaged Learning 2013


Mathematics | Physical Sciences and Mathematics


10 pages




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