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Local News

Keeping the Fish at Bay – Biologists Mobilize to Stop Invasive Carp From Taking Over Lake Michigan

Credit: iStock

Armand Jackson

Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR)’s “The Morning Show” recently had on air Amy McGovern, the Aquatic Invasive Species Program Supervisor for the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Mark Fritts, a fish biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. The interview discussed the progress made by state and federal agency initiatives to control the spread of the invasive carp population in the Great Lakes, more specifically Lake Michigan.

The methods employed so far to block and mitigate the carp population include; electric fences; installing devices on river beds that emit sound to block carp; deploying a curtain of bubbles to determine if it will deter them; as well as programs supported by states like Illinois that, according to McGovern, annually remove a million pounds of fish from waterways. But where did the carp come from and why is there such a massive coordinated effort to keep their population in the region in check? 

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service carp were imported from Southeast Asia to Arkansas and Mississippi in the 1970’s to help clean catfish farms and wastewater treatment ponds of weeds and parasites. As flood waters helped the carp escape, they headed up the Mississippi River reaching 31 states and Canada. The concern is that invasive carp in Lake Michigan would harm the local ecosystem since carp can consume almost half of its body weight in food each day and in so doing threaten the $7 billion fishing industry and $16 billion recreation boating industry on the Great Lakes.
In the WPR interview, both McGovern and Fritts gave an optimistic outlook since the carp population stalled in the past decade. According to McGovern,”We really haven’t seen that population front move in the last decade, they’re still about 40 to 50 miles from Lake Michigan.” Fritts stated, “At this point in time, we’re confident that we only have a small population here in Wisconsin.”