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A half dozen large silver fish jumping out of the water to a height of six feet.
Information icon School of jumping silver carp. Photo by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS.

Asian carp in Southeastern waters

The spread of four species of large carp—bighead, black, grass, and silver— threatens the Southeast’s renowned aquatic biodiversity and local outdoor economies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its federal and state partners are on the front line fighting Asian carp in southeastern waters.

The asian carp problem

Extensive flooding in the 1970s forced Asian carp into rivers, streams and lakes and the fish have continued to migrate. Large portions of the nation’s river systems are now occupied by one or more species of Asian carp. In recent years, these destructive fish have more rapidly expanded their range and numbers. When large populations of Asian carp become established, they can pose a risk to human safety and native wildlife.

A biologist holding a fish about the size of his thigh.
Silver carp. Photo courtesy of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

In the Southeast, carp put the region’s aquatic biodiversity at risk. For example, silver and bighead carp out-compete native sport fish like crappie and largemouth bass. And black carp feed on the freshwater mussels that help keep our aquatic systems healthy by providing good water quality for people, waterfowl and other wildlife species. Consequently, these fish harm local economies that rely on fishing, boating, and waterfowl hunting.


A collaborative effort for controlling carp

Controlling Asian carp in our nation’s waters requires the Service and its partners to remain focused, effective, and innovative. Federal and state agencies will leverage scientific expertise, data collection, new technologies and strategic planning across the various river basins.

A large black fish.
Adult black carp. Photo by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS.

The Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) is a good example of collaboration. This partnership of 28 state agencies, and a handful of federal agencies and tribes, is developing a basin-wide perspective on Asian carp management and control. MICRA annually identifies priorities to address carp in the Mississippi River Basin and recommends state-led projects to be funded with Service dollars.

Bio-acoustic fish fence in Kentucky

Sound has shown promise as a potential barrier to Asian carp passage and is being tested at lock and dam structures on large rivers where carp abound. The Service is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with the support of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and other partners, to deploy a large-scale sound deterrent trial project at Barkley Lock and Dam in western Kentucky.

Heavy machinery on a barge moves the bio-acoustic fish fence into place in a lock next to a dam
Installing the bio-acoustic fish fence at Lake Barkley. Photo by KYDFW.

The goal of the bio-acoustic fish fence, also referred to as BAFF, is to reduce the movement of Asian carp through the locks. This will help protect hundreds of river miles in the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers that remain relatively untouched by carp. The BAFF, developed by U.K.-based Fish Guidance Systems, deploys a curtain of bubbles, light and sound to deter carp from the lock entrance without encumbering commercial and recreational navigation.

Installation of the BAFF at Barkley Lock and Dam began in July 2019. The system became operation in October 2019, but construction will be suspended beginning in August 2019 to accommodate river traffic for required maintenance at neighboring Kentucky Lock. Installation will resume in October 2019, and the BAFF is expected to be operational later in fall 2019. The field trial at Barkley Lock and Dam is the next step in determining the system’s effectiveness.

Construction workers install a bio-acoustic fish fence
Construction of the bio-acoustic fish fence at Barkley Lock and Dam. Photo by Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

The BAFF project costs an estimated $7 million, which comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and leveraged financial support from the Service. The findings of the project will inform federal and state efforts to slow the spread of Asian carp and prevent their establishment in the Great Lakes.


Photos and video

More information

Contact

Dan Chapman, Public Affairs Specialist
daniel_chapman@fws.gov, (404) 679-4028

  • A half dozen large silver fish jumping out of the water to a height of six feet.
    Information icon School of jumping silver carp. Photo by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS.

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