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Health, Science and Environment

Pollution may be the barrier keeping Silver Carp from Lake Michigan - but it is disappearing

A new study suggests that Silver Carp may not be reaching Lake Michigan because of pollution in the Illinois River.

The Army Corps of Engineers is currently requesting roughly $800-million in funding to keep Asian Carp from reaching Lake Michigan, but a new study suggests an existing barrier could already be working.

Dr. Cory Suski who worked on the study said it’s possible silver carp have been held at the same place in the Illinois water system for roughly a decade… by pollution.

“Essentially there’s a fair number of contaminants in the water upstream of where the carp are and right around the place where the carp are located, on their upstream edge, the number of contaminants drops off,” Suski said.

According to Suski  more work needs to be done to confirm that water contamination is what’s stalling the carp from progressing to Lake Michigan.

“But it looks like the water quality, and contaminant levels, and the gene expression and physiological responses in the fish all kind of line up to suggest that maybe those animals are responding negatively to some of the contaminants in the water and that might be what’s keeping them from moving farther upstream,” he said.

Suski said the findings could increase urgency around creating new barriers in the river. Efforts are already underway to improve water quality in the region - meaning if it’s true that pollution is keeping carp where they are it may not last much longer.

“What we’re suggesting or wondering is if there is a contaminant of concern that is negatively impacting the fish that contaminant may go away as the water quality is improved.”

Suski said the conclusion shouldn’t be that more pollution is needed to keep the carp at bay. But, he said, if it’s true that pollution is keep the carp where they are it means more barriers should be put in the water soon to keep carp from reaching Lake Michigan.