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Asian carp: DNA evidence finds something fishy near Lake Michigan

The failure of a recent expedition to find any invasive Asian carp near Lake Michigan – though DNA traces say they are there – has shipping interests claiming victory and others calling foul.

This 2010 file photo shows Asian bighead carp in an exhibit at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. Five states are hoping to stop Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes by closing Chicago-area shipping locks: Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Officials want the locks closed and barriers installed to prevent the giant fish from slipping into the Great Lakes and potentially decimating a $7 billion-a-year fishing industry.

M. Spencer Green / AP / File

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A multi-agency search for Asian carp in the Chicago waterway system this week yielded no specimens of the invasive fish.

Shipping interests are declaring victory, saying the results vindicate their conviction that the fish has not entered Lake Michigan. However, opponents say a wealth of DNA evidence collected over three years shows their presence at least as conclusively as producing an actual fish.

In the past two months, 11 positive DNA samples have pointed to the presence of the invasive species, prompting the search. Since 2009, 85 samples have tested positive. To date, only one Asian carp has been found: a 19-pounder fished out of Lake Calumet, a small lake located 6 miles upstream from Lake Michigan, in 2010.

On Monday, the four-day search of Lake Calumet began, carried out by commercial fisherman and a team of biologists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois Department of National Resources, and Southern Illinois University.

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