Notre Dame scientists have found evidence of Asian silver carp in Lake Michigan for the first time.
A water sample collected by Chris Jerde of Notre Dame's Environmental Change Initiative tested 100% positive for the invasive species. It was the only sample out of 50 taken from Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin, but Jerde believes it to be an indication of an actual silver carp fish in the lake.
"Now, we have to go back and see what we find," Jerde said. "The question will be, 'In the future, if we go back, how often will we find it?'"
Asian silver carp can grow up to five feet long and 100 pounds. They can jump 10 feet high, and they eat everything in sight.
For Les Bontrager, who goes fishing in St. Joseph River at least once a week, the Asian silver carp are a nightmare.
"A lot of the river would be affected," Bontrager said. "The way these fish jump, I'm sure they would go right up a fish ladder, too."
The U.S. government designated the Asian carp an "invasive species" in 2007, because once the fish find their way into an ecosystem, they can wipe out other fish populations, altering the freshwater food chain.
What's more, they can hurt people.
"Most people have watched the YouTube videos of Asian carp jumping out of the water," Jerde said. "There's a human health aspect to this as well."
But there's hope. Jerde said there's a chance the government can stop the population before it spreads out of control.
Bontrager, who's a member of the Michiana Walleye Association, said he and the rest of the group hope they do.
"If this really gets as catastrophic as they're talking, it could really affect a lot of things," he said.
Experts have not discovered any evidence that there is a breeding population of Asian carp in the lakes.
Jerde said the next step is for state and federal agencies to take more samples and run more tests, then try to control any populations they find.