2015 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework Details Efforts Against Invasive Fish

By on July 14, 2015
A USFWS researcher monitors Asian carp movement as part of a rapid response effort. (Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

As the threat of Asian carp invasion grows in the Great Lakes, state, federal and international agencies are working together to protect the natural aquatic resources that are so vital to the U.S. and Canada.

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee recently released the 2015 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework. Featuring $60 million in preventative and monitoring projects, the framework outlines plans to address a rising threat from Asian black and grass carp, as well as the well-established threat from silver and bighead carp.

“The Asian carp certainly remains a challenge. It certainly remains a significant threat,” said Mike Weimer, senior fishery biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Region. “The ACRCC and other partners are making it a very high priority to address that challenge.”

The USFWS is just one of the major federal agencies involved in the framework’s development, along with the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Each agency offers their own unique expertise to the framework, Weimer said. The USFWS focuses on field monitoring, detection and surveillance, most notably through their eDNA program that uses trace genetic material to detect the presence of invasive carp in certain waterways.

The USGS, on the other hand, is working on several new tools to control the movement of Asian carp and prevent them from establishing a foothold in the Great Lakes. One of these tools is a carbon dioxide “gate” that could be installed at a lock or other narrow confluence point.

Members of the ACRCC conduct a rapid response effort against Asian carp in Lake Calumet in 2011. (Credit: ACRCC)

Members of the ACRCC conduct a rapid response effort against Asian carp in Lake Calumet in 2011. (Credit: ACRCC)

“If you can put CO2 in a lock chamber or a strategic choke point, you can create, essentially, a barrier against fish movement back and forth,” Weimer said.

The USGS is also conducting experiments at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, Ill. with a high-pressure water gun that could be fired across narrow waterways to deter invasive carp passage.

With any of these technologies, however, Weimer says one of the greatest concerns continues to be the impact of preventative measures on native, non-invasive species in the Great Lakes and its connected passages.

The Chicago Area Waterway System and the upper Illinois Waterway are considered a primary passage through which the carp could travel to the Great Lakes, and both have been the target of extensive projects to limit the viability of that travel.

A series of electric barriers have already been installed throughout the various waterways within the CAWS, and more are set to be constructed as part of the 2015 framework, Weimer said, referring to the system as a “living lab.”

While bighead and silver carp have been under the greatest scrutiny in recent years — and remain the focus of the framework — grass and black carp are drawing attention as they move closer and closer to Lake Michigan. Additionally, these species are molluscivores that primarily target mussels, one of the most endangered aquatic species in North America.

Weimer noted that the nearest black carp sighting was still 305 miles downstream from Lake Michigan, but despite the “fair bit of distance,” the ACRCC and its partners are doubling down on efforts to monitor that species.

As invasive threats to the Great Lakes’ aquatic ecosystems continue to expand, so does the ACRCC itself, enabling faster and more holistic responses to problems where they arise.

“The ACRCC, the partnership, continues to evolve,” Weimer said. “It’s become more inclusive. Today, it includes 22 agencies, state and federal, both U.S. and Canadian. We’re putting a lot of resources toward addressing the problem. Preventing Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes is always job number one.”

Top image: A USFWS researcher monitors Asian carp movement as part of a rapid response effort. (Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

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