Jumping Asian Carp

The Carp Show: An Inside Look at the Jumping Fish Invasion

In this podcast, I will show you an overview of the risks of the Asian Carp invasion.  Then, I will look into the relevant important issues, including the relationship between this issue and the reversing of the Chicago River, and Asian hate crimes.
Welcome to the ELI’s Finding Chicago Global Perspectives Podcast Series for AEPP 2022.  I’m your host, Shu Takami, and I’m currently enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Law School.  Today we will be exploring the topic of the invasion of Asian carp.
I am a big fan of seafood.  In Japan, I really enjoyed cleaning fish and making sushi.  So, before I came to Chicago, I was worried if I could eat good seafood because Chicago is not facing the ocean.  But, after I came to Chicago, I was surprised to find a lot of nice seafood restaurants.  Further, I got interested in fishing in beautiful Lake Michigan.  It has nice salmon and trout among others.  Then, while researching where the seafood was caught and what routes brought it to Chicago., I acknowledged an important social issue: the Asian Carp invasion.  The term “Asian carps” collectively refers to a group of four species of carps: Bighead, Silver, Grass, and Black carps.  They were imported to the southern U.S. from China in the 1970s as a way to help clean algae and control algal blooms.  It worked well at first.  But, 10 years later, flooding along the Mississippi River resulted in their spreading.  Shortly, the population of Asian carp exploded.  There are no precise estimates of Asian carp populations in U.S. waters, but there are believed to be millions.  Asian Carp became successful by their ability to reproduce rapidly, outcompete native species for food and habitat, and avoid predation.  In the future, they could destroy the balance of the ecosystem and devastate the region’s fishing industry.  In addition, they can jump as much as 10 feet into the air, often landing in boats and sometimes injuring the passengers.  Now, Great Lakes are in danger of their invasion.
Indeed, the invasion of alien species itself is a typical issue around the world.  However, the issue of the Asian Carp invasion is closely related to Chicago’s unique geographical characteristics.  According to the research done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Asian carp invasion is likely to happen through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  This canal was constructed to reverse the flow of the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan and halt the pollution of the lake waters by the city’s sewage.  It succeeded in stopping the pollution of Lake Michigan, but it also serves as a pain in the neck as the only entry point for Asian Carp to the Great Lakes.  That’s because this waterway is the only continuous connection between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, where Asian carp inhabit.  In fact, in 2009, Michigan state filed a lawsuit against Illinois state requesting to close the locks between Illinois’ carp-infested waterways and Lake Michigan, although Michigan’s claim was dismissed.  The government has taken many measures to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.  For example, electric barriers were installed in the Chicago Area Waterway System.  These barriers don’t actually electrocute the fish, but repel them when they encounter the strong electrical field.  They work well.  But, their cost is hundreds of millions of dollars.  Moreover, in addition to blocking Asian carp, we need to find ways to reduce their population.
Another important aspect is that the issue of the Asian carp invasion could lead to discrimination against Asian people.  It is widely known that anti-Asian hate crimes spread during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A July 15, 2021 article on CBC’s website said that the concern over racism caused movements toward renaming Asian carp.  For example, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources gave Asian carp a new name: “Copi.”  Its spelling is C-o-p-i.  This renaming also intends to rebrand the fish’s well-known, infamous name into something people might wanna have for dinner.
As a seafood lover and Asian person, I’d like to contribute to solving this issue.  As a first step, let’s try eating Copi.  It would be great if you would join me.  Thank you for listening!