DECATUR — Thousands of Asian carp are spawning at the base of the Lake Decatur dam, prompting a local wildlife expert to contact the state Department of Natural Resources for help.
Jacques Nuzzo, program director for the Illinois Raptor Center and an avid outdoorsman, was bird watching at the Lake Decatur dam a few weeks ago when he saw large amounts of fish at its base.
"I realized they were Asian carp and I thought, well, this isn't good," Nuzzo said. "I've seen Asian carp here, but I've never seen this many at once."
Asian carp are an invasive species, meaning they can cause serious damage in lakes and rivers by out-competing native fish populations for food and space. Earlier this month, leaders of states and Canadian provinces in the Great Lakes region agreed on a plan to protect the lakes from the species; in a joint resolution, they urged Congress to allocate money for the plan, which would cost $778 million.
The city of Decatur five years ago installed barriers specifically designed to keep the non-native fish out. The barrier installment came after years of Asian carp sightings in the Sangamon River. The 4-foot screen barriers represented about $120,000 of a $4 million dam repair project. Rough winter weather caused a portion of the screen to detach about a month after it was installed, but was repaired within six months.
Nuzzo on the Illinois Raptor Facebook page posted drone video Thursday morning showing the carp lining the width of the river lining the dam. He said he shared the video, prior to posting, with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which made an appearance at the dam Wednesday.
"It's not easy trying to get them out of this area," Nuzzo said. "You can't just go out and net them. It takes some math and planning."