Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee to Intensify Monitoring on the Chicago Area Waterway System in Response to Environmental DNA Results

Chris McCloud - IDNR
Kaitlin Steiger-Meister-USFWS
Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee to Intensify Monitoring on the Chicago Area Waterway System in Response to Environmental DNA Results
CHICAGO- The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) today announced intensive monitoring action will begin in the North Shore Channel of the Chicago River on Tuesday, October 16 after three consecutive rounds of Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling yielded positive results for Asian carp DNA in the North Shore Channel. The ACCRC�s 2012 Monitoring and Rapid Response Plan calls for a Level 1 response to three consecutive rounds of positive eDNA results in one area. As an extra precaution, the ACRCC also will conduct intensive monitoring in a six-mile stretch of the Chicago River beginning near the Chicago lock, after one set of samples tested positive for eDNA in that area. While the North Shore Channel is regularly monitored for the presence of Asian carp, the level 1 response intensifies efforts with additional commercial fishing crews, agency electrofishing boats, and additional deep water sampling gear during an intensive four-day fishing period.

�While the science still does not tell us whether eDNA is from a live fish, a dead fish, or another source, finding three consecutive sets of positive samples triggers us to use significant resources to determine whether any Asian carp are present,� said John Goss, Asian Carp Director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. �This is part of the ACRCC�s comprehensive Asian carp control strategy that includes continuing aggressive monitoring to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, developing cutting edge control technologies, and refining the use of eDNA.�

Biologists from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be on the water with contracted commercial fishermen beginning Tuesday October 16th through Friday, October 19th. The crews will lay various net types throughout the North Shore Channel and in channel areas of the Chicago River. Agency electrofishing boats will sample fish in shoreline areas and will be used to drive fish towards the nets. Gears will be attended at all times and commercial and private vessel traffic will be able to proceed with minimal interference. A notice to mariners will be broadcast by the U.S. Coast Guard to further inform any water traffic during this effort, and daily updates will be posted on the ACRCC website (

Three separate eDNA samples sets were taken at the North Shore Channel between June 11th and September 11th, revealing 17 positives for silver carp DNA out of 171 samples. Full eDNA sampling details can be found at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website:  (

At present, eDNA evidence cannot verify whether live Asian carp are present, whether the DNA may have come from a dead fish, or whether water containing Asian carp DNA may have been transported from other sources, such as bilge water. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is leading an Asian Carp eDNA Calibration Study (ECALS) with the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reduce the uncertainty surrounding eDNA results and investigate alternative sources and pathways for eDNA detections beyond a live fish.

Since 2011, the ACRCC has been conducting intensive bi-monthly monitoring in the Chicago Area Waterway System, including in the North Shore Channel, using agency electrofishing and contracted commercial fishers. From March 2011 through September 2012, crews from MRRWG action agencies spent over 6,500 person-hours sampling with conventional gears in the CAWS upstream of the electric barrier. Crews completed over 400 hours of electrofishing and 130 miles of net and caught nearly 140,000 fish representing over 60 species. No bighead or silver carp were captured or observed upstream of the electric barrier during this time.

The ACRCC is following a set of protocols in the 2012 Monitoring and Rapid Response Plan (MRRP) which outline specific circumstances that would trigger one of three different response levels. The MRRP can be found on the ACRCC�s website at

The threat of Asian carp to the Great Lakes has generated an urgent and committed government response. In addition to aggressive monitoring and sampling, the ACRCC has proactively worked to contain Asian carp in the Chicago Area Waterway System by constructing a third electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, constructing a 13-mile physical barrier along the Des Plaines River to prevent fish bypass during flooding, initiated and maintained an unprecedented monitoring and response program to locate and remove any Asian carp encountered, and researching control technology and methods that can be tailored and applied to control Asian carp.

The Obama Administration also remains focused on preventing Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through all possible pathways. The Army Corps of Engineers recently released the Summary Report for the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study, �Other Pathways,� that qualitatively estimated, for 18 potential pathways, the likelihood of an aquatic pathway forming and aquatic nuisance species being able to utilize it to reach the adjacent basin. Earlier this week, the Corps presented Congress with its plan to identify a range of alternatives that could be implemented to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species, including a hydrologic separation alternative.

The Obama Administration formed the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee in 2009 to ensure coordinated and comprehensive action against Asian carp, and has invested $150 million in this effort. The ACRCC is led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation and all eight Great Lakes states, as well as the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and the City of Chicago. In addition, earlier this year the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans-Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources joined the ACRCC.

For more information on the 2012 MRRP, or to view the entire 2012 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework, visit:
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