Could Strobe Lights and "Bubble Curtains" Stop Invasive Asian Carp?

By Andrew Moseman | February 12, 2010 2:21 pm

asian-carpAsian carp—the giant invasive fish that have been moving up the Mississippi River for the better part of a decade–are getting close to the Great Lakes, and in fact some may have already crossed the barrier. For the lakes’ protectors, this is a near-doomsday scenario: Many fear that the ravenous carp could destroy the ecosystem by gobbling up the food that native fish depend on. This week the White House proposed a plan that would devote nearly $80 million to stopping the fish’s advance, but it’s not pleasing many people around the issue.

On one side, many environmentalists, as well as people who rely on Great Lakes fishing for their livelihood, have called on the federal government to shut down locks that connect the river to Lake Michigan. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm says, “The economic damage from these carp coming into the Great Lakes system would be irreparable…. They should shut the locks down until they get these other measures in place, and permanently have a solution to separating these two water systems” [Detroit News]. Granholm and other governors from the region met recently to try to craft another solution after the Supreme Court ruled that Illinois didn’t have to close the locks to stop the carp if it didn’t choose to.

Naturally there’s one group that would be mightily upset at closing the shipping locks: shipping companies. Illinois Rep. Judy Biggert said efforts to close locks and restrict barge and boat traffic in Chicago waterways would damage the local economy and have far-reaching national implications [Detroit Free Press]. The administration’s compromise plan would call for occasional closures of the locks, and though it would only conduct a long-range study of full closure, shipping representatives have still balked at that.

The federal plan is full of bizarre-sounding alternatives to closing the locks, too. Among them: barriers using sound, strobe lights and bubble curtains to repel carp and biological controls to prevent them from reproducing. They’re promising measures – but still on the drawing board [AP]. The plan would also bolster the system of electrical defenses in the water, intended to emit shocks that either scare the carp away or knock them unconscious. But since Asian carp DNA has now been found upstream of those barriers, it seems that at least some fish are slipping through.

The White House is set to brief the public on its plan this afternoon. But while they’re trying to play peacemaker in a money fight between states, they shouldn’t expect a rosy reception from anyone.

Related Content:
80beats: Ravenous, Leaping Asian Carp Poised to Invade Great Lakes
80beats: Robo-Fish Are Ready to Take to the Seas
80beats: Are Fish Farms the Answer to World Hunger or a Blight on the Oceans?
DISCOVER: Humans vs Animals: Our Fiercest Battles With Invasive Species (photo gallery)
DISCOVER: The Truth About Invasive Species

Image: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • fb36

    Always the best solution is biological control.
    What is the natural predator of the asian carp?
    How about humans?
    Isn’t this fish edible? :-)

  • Spironis

    Official Truth said Great Lakes’ eutrophication reversal would require 50-100 years and $billions/year. The zebra clam did it in a few years, for free. One suspects the Asian carp is less a problem than a wonderful answer nobody sitting atop a cash conduit wants to hear. Does Official Truth really believe a big aggressive fish would not be fished out to extinction by the simple expedient of allowing year ‘roud unlimited fishing?

    You go to Michigan where chipmunks are hunted with deer slugs and tell the folks that there are bigger fish to fry in Illinois. Mark the path with sparse trail of beer cans.

  • http://discovermagazine Iain Park

    It ain’t gunna happen. The asian carp will be or already are in the great lakes and that’s all there is to it.

  • Frankie Fish

    #2- Zebra Mussels have led to the diasppearance of all native Mussels in Lake Michigan, clogged water intakes- so we have to chlorinate the best tap water in the country to access it, they’ve changed the make up of the Lake itself, leading to Walleye stocks that will soon be gone.

    You need to educate your self to the threat that the Asian Carp poses to The Great Lakes. A fishing derby is as ridiculous an idea as any I’ve heard. Thanks to the arrogance of public officials, and the ignorance of the public at large, we are approaching a catastrophe.

    The only thing I can think to do is introduce a species specific disease, so they can kill themselves off. It’s a desperate measure that’s years away, but I don’t know any realistic alternative.

  • James E.

    I hear a lot about invasive species all over the world. The question I have is this a natural process or did someone dump a bunch of these fish somewhere? It seems to me that we are forever trying to stop any change in the ecosystem as we preserve it. Much like we stopped all forest fires in national parks. Then we discoed that the redwood need fire to seed, so now we allow natural fires to burn as long as it is not too dry and start controlled burns. All eco systems change and evolve. I think we need to evaluate where the change comes from and if we should try to mitigate the change or let it run its course.

  • Brian Too

    Do the bubble curtains and strobe lights sound like an invitation to a carp disco party? Or is that just me?

  • Frankie Fish

    #5- It is easy to see which species of plants and animals are beneficial and which ones are not. Not to sound ignorant, but you are already on a computer! You don’t need to be hit in the head by a flying carp to know what a scourge is.

    Just look up the envirenmental impact of the Goby and the Asian Carp.

    Accidental introduction of destructive invasive species, like the Goby, call for safeguards to prevent future accidents from happening. When we knowingly introduce a destructive foreign species, like the Asian Carp, it is criminal and people should go to jail.

    If some single mother bounces a check to pay for groceries, she will get in more trouble than the incredulous fools who ok’d and encouraged the import of the Asian Carp, and the Billions it will cost us.

  • tina n

    why don’t they put something over the rivers in areas or wait until it freezes and turn on a motor
    and let them jump up and knock themselves out? then scoop em up and sell to china as a delicacy
    and if your tongue sticks to ice do fish? save a step and they are already flash frozen for the trip!

  • Janna Rhames

    That url delivers many seriously practical info about it.


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