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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—native to Asia are threatening 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 of the response to Asian carp in southeastern waters.

The asian carp problem

Through flooding in the 1970s, Asian carp first found their way into rivers, streams and lakesand have continued their migration upstream since that time. Large portions of the nation’s river systems are now occupied by one or more of the four species of Asian carp. In recent years, these destructive fish have expanded their range and numbers. When large populations of Asian carp become established, they may pose a risk to human safety and negatively impact 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, these destructive fish are putting the region’s renowned 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 fishing and good water quality for people, waterfowl and other wildlife species. Consequently, these fish can negatively impact the local economies of communities that rely on fishing, boating, and waterfowl hunting.

A collaborative effort for controlling carp

The challenge of controlling Asian carp in our nation’s waters demands that the Service and its partners remain focused, effective, and innovative. Collaboration between federal and state agencies allows for the efficient and effective leveraging of scientific expertise, collecting data, developing new technologies, and undertaking strategic planning across the various river basins.

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

Effective collaboration can be seen within the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA). This partnership of 28 state agencies and a handful of federal agencies and tribes has created a committee to develop a basin-wide perspective on Asian carp management and control. MICRA annually identifies priority needs to address Asian carp in the Mississippi River Basin and recommends state-led projects to be funded using Service dollars.

Bio-acoustic fish fence in Kentucky

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

Heavy machinery unloads the bio-acoustic fish fence, a large piece of concrete with airholes from the back of a semi truck
Unloading the bio-acoustic fish fence at Lake Barkley. Photo by Fish Guidance Systems.

The goal of the bio-acoustic fish fence, also referred to as BAFF, is to reduce the use movement of Asian carp through the locks, thus helping to protect hundreds of river miles that remain relatively untouched by carp in the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. The BAFF, developed by U.K.-based company Fish Guidance Systems, uses a curtain of bubbles and sound particularly noticeable by Asian carp to deter fish from the lock entrance.

Installation of the BAFF at Barkley Lock and Dam is ongoing, but construction will be suspended beginning in August 2019 to accommodate navigation traffic during a required maintenance closure at neighboring Kentucky Lock. Installation will resume in October 2019, the BAFF is expected to be operational later in fall 2019. The field trial to test the effectiveness of the BAFF system will continue for a three-year period and cost an estimated $7 million, which is coming from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee’s Asian Carp Action Plan and leveraged with support from Service base funding.

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More information


Dan Chapman, Public Affairs Specialist, (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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