Biologists seeing more fish species in Chicago waterways due to reduced pollution

The Shedd Aquarium says that after 50 years of working to reduce the pollution in Chicago’s waterways, they now have definitive proof that the efforts are paying off.

Biologists say the water quality has improved so much that they are starting to see a bigger variety of fish.

We're talking about the Chicago River, the Calumet River and all the canals that connect those two together and flow to the Illinois River — and eventually to the Mississippi River.

The Shedd said Monday that the number of fish species living in those waterways has tripled since the 1980s. Almost all of those fish are native species.

However, the Shedd says there is still work to do.

"So if you go out and look at the Chicago River, you'll notice it has vertical steel walls. The bottom of it is also flat. It doesn't flow very fast, so we have sediment that's pretty fine at the bottom. All of this is pointing to me saying that it's pretty habitat limited. So now we're interested in how we can improve habitat for these fish. That way we can bring in even more species but also have healthier, larger species for people to fish and enjoy, as they kind of enjoy recreating on the rivers here," said Dr. Austin Happel, Shedd Aquarium Research Biologist.


If you'd like to see the changes in the Chicago River yourself, the Shedd offers guided summer tours with its "Kayak for Conservation" program.