Aquatic Nuisance Species

Chicago District
Published Jan. 8, 2024
Electrofishing for ANS

USACE LRC employees electrofishing below Brandon Road Lock and Dam

USACE is a member of the Invasive Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ICRCC), an interagency task force made up of federal, state, and local agencies working together to prevent invasive carp and other ANS from establishing sustainable populations in the Great Lakes. Protecting our national treasures, our Great Lakes, from ANS is critical.

Aquatic nuisance species are nonindigenous species that threaten the diversity or abundance of native species or the ecological stability of infested waters, or commercial, agricultural, aquacultural or recreational activities dependent on such waters. See Section 1003(2) of the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, 16 U.S.C. § 4702(1) (2010).

The Great Lakes and Ohio River Division is leading the USACE effort, along with the Mississippi Valley Division.

USACE supports the ICRCC effort through a four-part strategy:

  • Operating the electric barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC).
  • Studying the effectiveness of the barriers and strengthening the barriers, as appropriate.
  • Participating in extensive monitoring of the Chicago Area Waterway System and Illinois Waterway.
  • Conducting the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) that outlines available options and technologies that could be applied to prevent the inter-basin transfer of ANS of concern between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins by aquatic pathways.


Asian Carp

There are many species grouped as invasive carp, which are in the minnow family Cyprindae: Common Carp, Goldfish, Crucian Carp, Grass Carp, Black Carp, Bighead Carp and Silver Carp.

The Bighead and Silver Carp are currently the primary invasive carp aquatic nuisance species of concern for the Upper Illinois Waterway and Chicago Area Waterway System.

Potential Risks of Invasive Carp

Bighead and Silver Carp are voracious eaters, consuming microscopic organisms known as plankton. Like all planktivores, they eat from the base of the food chain, putting them in competition with native planktivores which include juvenile fish and mussels.

Bighead and Silver carp are capable of eating between 20 to 120 percent of their body weight each day. Bighead Carp can weigh up to 100 pounds while Silvers can weigh up to 60 pounds. Silver carp also jump into the air and have been known to land in boats, damage property, and injure people.

The migration of invasive carp through the Illinois River, Des Plaines River and Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) is one risk facing the Great Lakes today. Currently, the adult population front of Silver and Bighead Carp is about 45 miles from Lake Michigan and has not moved for approximately 15 years.

How you can help:

• Alert your Department of Natural Resources if an invasive carp may have been observed in your waterways.
• Do not move live fish from one location to another. Some state laws prohibit the transport of live invasive carp.
• Never use wild-caught baitfish in waters other than where they came from.
• Know the difference between juvenile invasive carp and juvenile shad (Gizzard and Threadfin Shad), which look nearly identical.
• Drain lake or river water from live wells and bilges before leaving any body of water.