Asian carp were originally brought to the U.S. to control algae in southern aquaculture farms and eventually made their way into the Mississippi River, likely through flooding. Over time, the carp swam north, up the Mississippi and into the river’s tributaries, including the Illinois River. All eyes are now on the fish as they move toward the Great Lakes. In fact, an unprecedented binational effortbetween the United States and Canada has been launched to prevent the carp from establishing in the lakes.
You can see bighead and silver carp slowly swimming in Shedd’s At Home on the Great Lakes exhibit, but don’t let this gentle display deceive you. These fish are voracious predators of the tiniest prey – microscopic aquatic plants, and animals called plankton. Plankton is the basis of the entire Great Lakes food system, and given that Asian carp can eat up to 20 percent of their body weight in one day, their hefty appetites could harm the food web that native species need to survive.
At Shedd, we are encouraged and inspired by the wealth of Great Lakes information that’s available to the public, thanks to a deeply committed community domestically and internationally. We believe everyone can be powerful stewards of the Great Lakes, and we hope you will join us in caring for the abundance of life they support.