Asian Carp May Start Spawning in Great Lakes Watershed

A new study proves that at least four of the invasive species have lived their entire lives in a river that feeds directly into the lakes

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This June 13, 2012, file photo shows Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jumping from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill.

New evidence proves for the first time what has long been feared: the invasive Asian carp species has reproduced in bodies of water that feed into the Great Lakes, posing a new threat to waterways that the federal government spent hundreds of millions trying to protect against the destructive fish.

(MORE: Asian Carp in the Great Lakes? This Means War! )

Four grass carp have lived in the Sandusky River, which flows into Lake Erie, for their entire lives and have the potential to become spawning adults, new research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Bowling Green State University shows. Because grass carp eat vegetation they pose a lesser threat than silver and bighead carp, which devour plankton and disrupt ecosystems, but their reproduction suggests that more species of the invasive fish have the potential of taking over the Great Lakes.

“It’s bad news,” Duane Chapman, a USGS biologist and member of the research team told the Associated Press. “It would have been a lot easier to control these fish if they’d been limited in the number of places where they could spawn. This makes our job harder. It doesn’t make it impossible, but it makes it harder.”

(MORE: Invasive Species: Catchin’ Some Asian Carp)

The Asian carp was brought to the U.S. from China in the 1970s, when catfish farmers down South began importing them to eat algae. The species escaped from farms into the wild and began threatening the ecosystem by eating up hordes of plankton along the Mississippi River.

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