Sam Finney with the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service displays the lone Asian Carp collected from the Sanitary and Shipping Canal.
Illinois officials have dumped 2,200 gallons of poison in a six-mile canal in an attempt to whipe out all Asian Carp, a dreaded scavenger fish, before they carp reach the Great Lakes. But so far, Operation Carpgate has only netted one dead Asian carp, and the "slow-motion disaster" hasn't been averted.
But there has been collatoral damage. Lots of it. Along with the lone carp, thousands of fish have turned belly-up in the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal, a waterway that leads into Lake Michigan.
"We've now confirmed with a body, what the eDNA evidence has suggested: That Asian Carp are indeed knocking on the door of the Great Lakes," Department of Natural Resources assistant director John Rogner said Thursday night.
If the Asian carp reach the Great Lakes, environmental officials fear it could destroy many species endemic to the lake. The giant fish could starve out other fish and devastate the $7 billion-a-year Great Lakes fishing industry.
The 22-inch long fish was recovered by boat near the Lockport Lock and Dam, near the end of the kill zone. It is the closest the body of an Asian carp has been found to Lake Michigan.
"We believe this will reduce or eliminate any remaining doubt on the need for this operation," Rogner said.
A toxin was dumped into the canal Wednesday to kill any carp while an electrical barrier designed to keep them from the Great Lakes was turned off for maintenance.
Rotenone is a toxic chemical used by wildlife officials for decades to eradicate invasive fish.
If the poison does end up killing the carp in the canal, more will need to be done.
"The problem does not go away after the poison has floated down the canal," Henry Henderson, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Midwest Program, told the Chicago Tribune. "It will require proactive and thoughtful action, two things that have been scarce during this slow-motion disaster."