Serenading the Asian Carp

Aug. 15, 2017

Who’s afraid of the Asian carp? Lots of people, apparently, including those in the fishing industry throughout the Great Lakes region. The invasive species of fish, which was brought to aquatic farms in the southern US more than 40 years ago, is steadily spreading north. Weighing up to 100 pounds apiece, the voracious carp can outeat and outcompete most other species, harming ecosystems, crowding out native fish, and generally being destructive. One variety, the silver carp, can leap a good distance out of the water, sometimes making its way over small dams and occasionally startling or even injuring boaters.

As the fish move closer to the Great Lakes, the US Army Corps of Engineers has been using underwater electric fences to try to limit their progress. The fences don’t kill the fish, but they’re intended to stop them from entering the tributaries of the Chicago Area Waterway System and, from there, reaching Lake Michigan. The barriers have been fairly successful—only two carp are known to have gotten through—but the fish are still moving closer. A small 8-pound carp was recently found about 9 miles from Lake Michigan, rekindling fears about their potential effects on the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry.

Now, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has announced prize money of up to $700,000 for new ideas to drive the fish away. The Corps has suggested additional measures to deter the carp, including noise generators, water jets, and a flushing lock. Of these, the high-tech sound system is considered possibly the most promising. One columnist, Joe Queenan, has suggested that piping in a compilation of ’70s greatest hits would deter just about any creature. Captain and Tennille, anyone? In fact, the Corps of Engineers is considering more mundane sounds such as recordings of a boat motor.

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.