Chicago is planning to spend up to $18 billion to defend its citizens from attacks. But these are not human invaders, nor aliens or wild cats. The third-largest city in the United States is looking to defend itself from - hold your breath - the Asian carp.
These fish have attacked fishermen while the anglers were out on their boats. Measuring over three feet long and weighing up to 20 pounds, these fish jump out of the water, flying into people on boats. They will sometimes even bite humans, often on their face.
In addition to the danger of injury, Chicago also wants to keep the carp from entering the waters of Lake Michigan. In order to do this, officials plan to build up the canal system around the Windy City. Even the White House and Congress are taking part in the plan to stop the spread of the species. The Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the fresh water in the world. An invasion by Asian carp could have a significant environmental and economic impact.
The plan to block the invasive species could take 25 years to implement. During that time, Asian carp could escape the waters in which they are currently held. A public hearing, sponsored by the US Army Corps of Engineers, was held on the problem. Given the size of the city, a major canal project could have a significant impact on the lives of millions of people.
The effort is being spearheaded by the National Wildlife Federation. The conservation group believes the carp would proliferate in the Great Lakes, changing the eco-system. In some rivers where Asian carp live, they can represent up to 90 percent of the biomass of the freshwater system.
"It's simply one of the most dangerous things that we're doing, so we have to protect ourselves. We can't have a fish jumping on the throttle or a fish knocking somebody out," Kevin Irons, from the Illinois Natural History Survey Station, said in a statement.
Asian carp were first brought to the United States from Europe forty years ago. They were imported by fish farms to clean catfish ponds. They soon entered waterway surrounding the farms, and their numbers quickly rose.
Another idea to control the population may be to eat the animals. At least one carp burger stand is already open, serving the aggressive fish up for locals and tourists. Unlike most edible animals, the plan would be to eat the Asian carp to extinction in the United States. Proponents of this idea point out the jobs which would be created by industrial fishing of the animals.