Stopping Asian Carp in the Great Lakes

[2016] Asian carp, Asian carp, Asian carp...if only they could be fished away. The threat to the Great Lakes is very real, and the ways to prevent them from establishing seem very difficult to grasp in terms of effectiveness and actual feasibility of execution. The good news is that there is general agreement that more measures need to be taken. However, agreement on which measures and how they will be implemented are fraught with costly repercussions, and exacerbated by the stress of time running out as Asian Carp findings seem to get more numerous in and around the Great Lakes Basin. To date, there is no established population in the Great Lakes of Asian Carp; and a lot of credit needs to be given to the many organizations who are the front line of prevention.

It's not only our Great Lakes Basin at risk..

GLMRIS study Map

The other surprising piece to this story is the under reported threat of invasive species travelling from the Great Lakes and infesting the Mississippi River Basin. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) developed the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) with the objective of finding options to prevent inter-basin transfer of "aquatic nuisance species" (ANS) or aquatic invasive species.

The study focused on preventing 13 of some 254 ANS species - 3 of which could transfer to the Great Lakes and include Scud , Silver Carp, and Bighead Carp ; and 10 which posed a risk for the Mississippi River Basin.

Aquatic invasives or ANS harm ecosystems, reduce native biodiversity and quantity, effect water quality, threaten the economy, and can create social disruption. Because of the devastating impact of Asian carp on neighbouring watersheds, there is much incentive for so many stakeholders to come together and work out preventative solutions for Asian carp in particular.

Asian carp in abundance in nearby watersheds..

Coming up the the Illinios River

" It has been estimated that the three lower reaches of the Illinois River (the first 231 miles of the Illinois Waterway, up to Starved Rock Lock and Dam about 100 miles from Lake Michigan) contained approximately 3.1 million pounds of Asian carp, of which Silver Carp make up about 90 % of the population density of which Bighead Carp make up 70 % of the biomass.11"

While projections on their impact to the Great Lakes vary from little impact to complete devastation, there is plenty of evidence of their destructive nature in the Mississippi and Ohio river basins near to the Great Lakes, where they have created havoc in expanding their numbers and causing concern with their increasing range. 9 Havana, along the Illinois River is an example. In the early '90s, the first Asian carp was caught in the area. Now, Asian carp comprise 60% of the fish severely limiting recreational boating and activities, as noted in this WGNtv article and video.

It's scary to think that only 20 fertile Asian carp are needed to establish a population in the Great Lakes, according to University of Waterloo ecology professor Kim Cuddington. 6

Read more about environmental impacts
  • A threat to native species and overall biodiversity.
  • Compete with native fish for food, by eating plankton and other food sources. They alter and compete for habitat with native fish
  • Out compete native fish with their ability to grow quickly and to very large sizes. Also, prey upon native fishes. Threaten native yellow perch and walleye – a vital part of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Rainbow trout, gizzard shad and emerald shiners have also been reported as threatened.
  • Carriers for diseases or parasites that could spread to native fishes
  • Lake Erie may suffer the worst consequences, up to 34% of L. Erie’s total fish biomass according to a recent study1
Economic costs
    Industries most likely to be effected by Bighead and Silver Carp are:
      1. Sport and Commercial fishing – less species, more dangers from flying fish
      2. Shipping – more expenses related to changing routes to avoid spreading of invasive speceis
      3. Tourism and recreation – Reduced quality of the Great Lakes experience due to potential dangers of flying fish and the change in the environment.
  • Many estimates on the cost of invasive species, and many ways to look at it. The Great Lakes St.Lawrence region has an economy of about $5.8 trillion dollars.On the higher side, in 2012, GBF cited the Great Lakes Commission estimates that current invasive species cost the Great Lakes costs $5.7 billion annually. 18
  • Many are concerned about the impact the Asian carp would have on the $7-billion-a-year Great Lakes fishery and the communities that rely on that fishery for commercial and recreational use. 19
  • For Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), estimate that the socio-eoconomic impact for Canada over 50 years would be $390 billion. This would include categories of commercial fishing, recreational fishing, recreational boating (the biggest at $333 billion), wildlife viewing, and beaches and lakefront use.
Find out more about Hongyan Zhang's study on Lake Erie
According to the study, conducted by Hongyan Zhang2, assistant research scientist at the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and other university professors:
  • Some fish species like smallmouth bass would see a population increase with the establishment of Asian carp. However, that is small comfort considering,
  • Many fish would see decrease of up to 37%. 25% for most fish, and up to 37% for plankton eating species.
  • Although lower than some experts have previously predicted Zhang notes that “They could become one-third of the total fish weight. That is quite a lot.”
  • Dresden Island Pool
    Leading Edge of adult Asian carp population

    What about all those reports of Asian carp findings in the Great Lakes?

    There have been findings of Asian carp in the Great Lakes and even as far-flung as Lake Ontario . However, these findings have been relatively isolated catches; meaning that there is that there is no evidence of a breeding or established population of the high risk Bighead carp or Silver carp. (Read here about the 4 different species of Asian Carp).

    However, Asian carp are close, and all entry points and Great Lakes are of great concern and need to be prioritized. Entry to Lake Michigan via the Chicago Area Waterways (CAWS) System and the Illinois River have been assessed as the largest risk to a Great Lakes invasion. Within this system (CAWS), the adult population front of Bighead and Silver carp is 55 miles, and two locks away from Lake Michigan according to officials in 2014,11. Propitiously, this "overall leading edge" has not changed since 2006 and does not include spawning activity that happens further downstream in the Illinois river. Officials can never be complacent though - Silver Carp larvae were mapped further north on the Illinois River in June 2015 then ever before.

    While Lake Michigan is the most vulnerable entry point, other studies point to Lake Erie

    A recent study suggests Lake Erie1 is the most threatened ecosystem due to a higher variety of fish species verses the other Great Lakes. It is argued by some and very hotly debated that with less plankton, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior are less likely to support larger volumes of Asian carp. In addition to walleye, Lake Erie faces losses that include rainbow trout, gizzard shad and emerald shiners. Alarmingly, officials have found evidence of Grass Carp reproduction in Lake Erie. While this type of Asian carp is thought to be less destructive than Bighead or Silver Carp because they eat plants instead of plankton, they are still voracious eaters who can harm wetlands and alter the environment for other fish.

    Georgian Bay Forever believes that Asian carp are a significant threat to all the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay. Understanding the state of the struggle, and the complexities, and recognizing the species and its dangers are all important to helping prevent Asian carp from establishing in the Great Lakes and Georgian Bay. We have summarized some of the key measures below:

    5 current Asian carp prevention measures

    Updated: February 29, 2016

    1. Electrical Barriers - Prevention for Lake Michigan in the Illinois River
    The primary current defence structures against Asian carp are electro-magnetic fields north of the Lockport Lock and Jam in the Chicago Area Waterways (CAWS) about 40 km south of Chicago. Engineered by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), these barriers will be managed by them in the future.

      How do electrical barriers work?
      An electrical current is generated in the water from cables drilled into the riverbed4, which makes fish uncomfortable and deters them from moving further upstream. The voltage of these ‘barriers’ was found to be questionable for smaller less fish the 5.4 inches or longer. In late 2011, voltage was increased to stop Asian carp about 2 to 3 inches long.

      The first generator was built and tested successfully in 2002 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). There are now 3 generators to allow for maintenance.
      Efficacy, and the eDNA monitoring tool
      Only one fish in 2010 has been found upstream of the barrier through electro-fishing and netting techniques ; although environmental DNA (eDNA) testing indicated the possible presence of Asian carp in a variety of locations in the waterway system closer to Lake Michigan.

      Go to wikipedia for a definition of what is electro-fishing?

      What is eDNA (Environmental deoxyribonucleic acid) testing?
    • Water samples are collected to remove genetic materials that provide information about the species in the water (i.e. Asian carp).
    • While this has tool is a valuable early detection tool, Asian carp eDNA in 2010 prompted a flurry of alarmed activity, which included a low-profile, mass fish-kill operation in the Chicago waterway and north of the barrier the following winter and following spring. While accepted as a necessary short-term emergency response, sustaining such a toxic program was wasteful and not desirable. Work needed to be done to make the process of eDNA more efficient and conclusive, as noted below:
      • 1. DNA cells can be released into the environment in a variety of ways, including excrement and mucus. DNA can also be moved or conveyed (bird droppings, boat gear etc), and not indicate a true population.
        2. As noted by USACE, 8 ” When results in the CAWS indicate positive detections for Asian carp eDNA, yet hundreds of hours of netting and electrofishing turn up no actual fish, there is the ecological and fiscal responsibility and duty to determine what the sources beyond a live fish could potentially be.” In conjunction with using this tool with other monitoring tools, methodology and processes were refined to tie positive eDNA samples to Asian carp populations, decrease the time to produce results, and improve costs.
    • In 2015 eDNA testing was expanded to include downstream barrier testing as well as an early detection tool above the barrier. Canadians are testing in various sites in Lake Erie, St. Clair, Detroit River, and South Lake Huron.
    • The eDNA sampling program on the US side is conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Whitney Genetics Laboratory in Onalaska, Wisconsin, and there is a Canadian lab in Winnipeg managed by the Department of Forestry and Oceans.
    • Re-allocation of resources - downstream of the electrical barriers
      Consistent monitoring above and near the barrier has demonstrated few finds. More effort has been placed downstream of electrical barriers where the Illinois Department of Natural Resources harvest Silver and Bighead. Sampling for small Asian carp will increase through netting and electrofishing operations. Also, various water sonar technologies and sonic fish tags (little radio transmitters) are being used to understand the movements of Asian carp below the barrier.

      It should also be noted that commercial fishing of Asian Carp downstream of the barrier, has also been a tool to try to reduce adult populations.
    2. Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC)

    Oversees the efforts of numerous stakeholders from federal, state/provincial, and local agencies and private organizations to prevent Asian carp from establishing in the Great Lakes. The ACRCC and the annual 'Framework' strategies it develops started in 2009 to establish short, long term, multi-level, and progressive approaches to Asian carp prevention beyond exclusive reliance on electrical barriers.

    In June 2015, it published the "Asian Carp Strategy Framework" which provides a comprehensive summary of all the major work being done on controlling Asian carp. Bighead and Silver Carp are the focus, with the 2015 framework including Grass and Black Carp for the first time.

    [update May 6] The ARCC just released the 2016 Asian Carp Control Action Plan. GBF will take sometime to review it, but here is their summary with a PDF of their Action Plan.

    Canada joins, read about our involvement
  • In 2013, The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) joined as well as the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF), shortly followed by similar agencies in Quebec due to their interest in the protection of the St. Lawrence. Canadian governments have little legal clout as most aquatic entry points fall in US territory – but they continue to consult with their U.S. counterparts.

  • The department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has established the Asian carp program ( which works on a variety of initiatives that include working to stop (monitoring, early detection, and analysis including 2 labs in Canada), driving awareness and education, science/research including risk assessment, and blocking (working with mostly US led federal and state agencies that are driving efforts in the US territory). Please find excellent webinar videos on a variety of Asian carp topics, some hosted by Becky Cudmore, a Canadian expert on Asian Carp.
  • 3. Earthen Berm - Prevention for Lake Erie , the Eagle Marsh project 2015

    In Indiana, a 2 mile earthen berm was erected across a floodway near Fort Wayne in order to prevent the connection of the two basins (the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed) during times of high precipitation or spring melt.

    Specifically, at Eagle Marsh, the Wabash River a tributary of the Mississippi basin could connect with the Maumee River, which enters Lake Erie at Toledo, Ohio. The berm replaced a temporary movable chain link fence and also aims to prevent flood damage to properties between the two basins.

    Watch a great video in an article from Voice of America, discussing the Indiana berm in detail.

    4. Preventing people from bringing Asian Carp to the Great Lakes.

      It is illegal to transport, sell, or possess live Asian Carp in Ontario and the Great Lakes US States21. Ontario strengthened its ability to prevent aquatic invasive species with the passing of Bill 37 in October, the Invasive Species Act 2015 which prohibited import and possession of significant-threat species (the regulations are to follow). While experts think that there is less from this potential introduction then from the CAWS; it still is very critical to stop.
      Possible loopholes
    • Some confusion over what exactly is a dead fish? An example is fish on ice. Some accounts have found some iced fish alive. Ontario is considering changing the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to transported carp being dead and eviscerated.
    • On both sides of the border federally, there does not appear to be legislation around possession of live Asian carp, it is enacted at state or provincial level (note above). In the Lacey Act – the US Federal government prohibits “movement” of Asian carp and not ownership; which makes live Asian carp legal in the South and keeps law enforcement like the Illinios Department of Natural Resources active in trying to uncover illegal trade in the Great Lakes States.

    5. Other organizations are making a difference - driving awareness, monitoring or driving consensus

  • Fixed and random sampling in the CAWS and Upper Illinois River are mandated and are tackled as a coordinated approach by the Illinios Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the United Sates Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to keep tabs on the movement of the front
    • eg. Lake Calument – 11,222 fish collected – no Asian Carp – 2014, later North Shore Channel and Chicago River – 11,367 fish collected, one Asian carp.
  • Since Asian fish above or near the barrier, produced very few finds, the strategy was updated to include more focus below the barrier to assess Asian carp where they are known to exist, monitor the leading edge and where there is active reproduction, and continue to assess the stress to the electrical barriers.
  • There is additional monitoring through contracted commercial fishing harvesting, which is a big part of removing carp downstream
  • Officials are studying net avoidance behavior, conclusions will lead to improved designs and processes
  • On the Canadian side, there are approximately 35 detection sites where fish activity and make-up are assessed to determine the presence of Asian carp
  • Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH)
  • Manages the Invading Species Hotline (1-800) 563-7711. If you find or catch a suspected Asian carp, please report it without delay.
  • United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
  • USACE is responsible for investigating, developing and maintaining the United State’s water and related environmental resources. Here are some key actions, among many, of USACE with regards to preventing Asian carp.
  • USACE in consultation with a number of other partners conducted the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS). USACE will assess different options and technologies “to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River aquatic pathways”.
  • USACE has been further directed to “proceed with a formal evaluation of potential ANS control technologies” in the Brandon Road Study, estimated to cost $8.2 million USD.
  • The Great Lakes and St.Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSL)
  • The Great Lakes and St.Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSLCI) is comprised of 120 US and Canadian mayors and officials working together on protecting and restoring the Great Lakes and St.Lawrence.
  • This organization created the CAWS Advisory Committee in 2010 to look at 2 way strategies for CAWS to prevent invasives from entering the Great Lakes or the Mississippi Basin.
  • GLSLCI drives for regional consensus for long and short term solutions.
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • Beyond monitoring and other activities, the Illinios DNR also takes a leadership role in accumulating information on the legal producers, harvesters and processors of Asian carp and also enforcing laws against illegal activities to aid control of Asian carp.
  • Developing new management alternatives at Staved Rock Lock and Dam in Upper Illinois River, building on experiences of Asian Carp in the Illinois River
  • The above is far from a complete list - there are certainly more organizations fiercely involved in the current prevention of Asian carp into the Great Lakes - and there are more strategies and tactics deployed by the organizations listed. Some of these are listed below, for continued reading. If you would like to email us about further efforts on Asian carp prevention measures, please email Communications.

    What is CAWS? - Chicago Area Waterway System

    The CAWS is a 128 mile system of mostly man made waterways comprised of canals and river channels in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana. It grew to service a growing Chicago. In the early 1900's, sewage needed to moved away from Chicago by reversing the flow of the Chicago and Calumet Rivers into Lake Michigan toward the Mississippi via the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal.

    It is the only permanent hydrologic link between the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes basin.

    CAWS has purposes beyond sanitation, including being the only navigable inland link for shipping and recreation between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes . To give you an idea of the vessel traffic, two major locks within the CAWS, the Chicago Lock and the Thomas J. O'Brien Lock & Dam handled more than 50,000 watercrafts in 2008.

    CAWS is thought be be the greatest risk for the transfer of Asian carp to the Great Lakes through its 5 aquatic pathways between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River Basin:

      1. Wilmette Pumping Station, IL
      2. Chicago River Controlling Works, IL
      3. Calumet Harbor, IL
      4. Indiana Harbor, IN
      5. Burns Small Boat Harbor, IN

    What’s an invasive species?

    Every non-indigenous plant is not necessarily an invasive species, although you should always be aware of what you are planting or bringing in. Accidental non-indigenous species can have the potential to demolish native species and ecosystems, as they have no natural predators.

    Invasive species have the ability to spread to new areas, be a threat to the broader economy, environment, and society. Asian carp and invasive Phragmites are examples of invasive species that are a big threat to the Great Lakes.

    The Invasive Species Centre outlines their impact this way "These nonnative plants and animals not only threaten to transform the wildlife, woodlands and waterways that Canadians depend on, they cost this country billions of dollars in losses to forestry, agriculture, fisheries and other industries affected by their impact."

    5 Interim Initiatives Under Consideration or Underway or Under Consideration

    Updated: February 29, 2016

    Many view the current electrical barriers operation in CAWS as insufficient to prevent the invasion of Asian carp; especially from entering into Lake Michigan from CAWs (Chicago Area Waterways). In 2007, Congress authorized USACE to provide options to prevent Asian carp and other aquatic invaders from transferring basins (the Great Lakes and Mississippi). The USACE report, GLMRIS for short, provided 8 options, 4 of which involve complete hyrdological separation of the basins. While the debate about hydrological separation continues, some of the technology and processes in GLMRIS are being tested in the meantime. The biggest spend, and great opportunity for stopping Asian carp getting to the Great Lakes seems to be around the Brandon Road Study.

    1. Single One Way Control Point to prevent ANS from getting into Lake Michigan. If the Brandon Road Study is successful, the risk of Silver carp and Bighead carp would be substantially reduced. However, timing is a concern for some.
    More details
  • USACE is formally evaluating the viability of ANS (aquatic nuisance species) control technologies through the Brandon Lock and Dam, near Joliet Illinios, about 8 kilometres down from existing electric barriers. The Brandon Road Study, conducted by USACE, began in April 2015 and is to take about 46 months to complete a report (almost 4 years).
  • The Brandon Road project builds on the GLMRIS report, and was chosen at the end of 2014 because it is ideally suited as a single control point for one way transfer of ANS from the Mississippi River basin to the Great Lakes Basin (Upper Illinios).
      By establishing a one way control point at Brandon Road, the risk is minimized of Asian Carp transferring at high precipitation when the Des Plaines River could connect to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (ultimately Lake Michigan). If new technologies tested downstream of the lock fail, the existing operating lock (height differential) prevents ANS transfer upstream
  • Most public comments supported the Brandon Road project as a way to to mitigate risk for the Great Lakes, that was least problematic for navigators of CAWS. However, many supporters believe that it should not replace longer term solutions like hydrological separation, especially since it does not address ANS invading the Mississippi Basin.
    • According to GLMRIS, a single chokepoint for the reverse – preventing Great Lakes species from transferring to the Mississippi Basin – presented unacceptable flooding risks This objective has been shelved in the short term due to the complexities of the multiple points of control required.
    Anticipated Outcomes
    To decrease risk of one way transfer of ANS to the Great Lakes while providing data to inform potential future action on 2 way risk reduction in the CAWS.

    It’s a bit fuzzy about specifically what is happening at this site. According to this article in the Star, it is possible that electric barriers could be added as well as deploying underwater sound cannons and carbon dioxide bubble screens (see points below in point 2). The site could also be home to a new lock (and flushing approach) where treated water would cleanse vessels of floating plants, spores and fish.
      ACRCC in its 2015 framework (page 29) states the following will be done: New engineered channel in the approach to the Brandon Road Lock, deployment of control technologies in the approach channel and lock structure, and research into options for reinforcing the lock to control AIS.

    2. Engineers and researchers are testing non-structural repelling or control measures such as high pressure water (sound cannons), experimenting with pheromones, CO2 bubble screens and other experiments. These methods on their own are not likely to be fool-proof, but strengthen the control effort when used with other methods.

    The USGS (United States Geological Survey) combines tools and knowledge to aid in detection and prevention.They test various attractants and how they work in order to effectively add to control efforts.
    Since 2013, the USGS, in collaboration with partner agencies, has conducted research into the potential deterrent effects of waterguns on Asian carp. The USGS states that ” Seismic water guns emit pulses of acoustic energy which fish, including bighead carp and silver carp, have been shown to move away from. Water guns may be useful to deter/deny access by bighead carp and silver carp to off-channel refuge areas or to create static barriers to fish movement”13. Whether these guns work or how they challenge other infrastructure is being studied.

    In 2014, tests were conducted at two sites to see how the pressure in the water and velocity impacts the channel wall even though the velocity was half of what USACE allows. In 2015, additional research is being started to refine the technology and select locations for implementation of potential field trials on Asian carp, including at Brandon Road Lock and Dam.
    Carbon Dioxide
    The USGS, United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign are collaborating to examine carbon dioxide (CO2) effects on fish behavior in open water. CO2 bubbles seem repulsive to Asian carp, and high concentrations can even act as kind of sedative to certain fish.

    It might work something like this – at a certain point, like a lock, high concentrations of carbon dioxide could be inserted into the water. When the lock opened, the CO2 water would rush out, and would flow downstream pushing the Asian Carp back and ultimately dissolving. 15

  • An article on research around CO2 Bubbles
  • Chemical attractants, and working to make them more selective
    The USGS will continue to test the effectiveness of various attractants on Bighead and Silver carp to enhance control efforts. These attractants could be food stimulants or sex pheromones which are intended to ‘lure’ Asian carp to a place where they can be more easily captured.
    • What are pheromones? Released chemicals that alter the normal functioning in another animal of the same species.
    • By using these control agents, wouldn’t native fish be impacted? Yes. That is why experts are studying Microparticle Technology Development; which works to make control agents more selective. The technology would advantage the filter feeding behaviour and metabolism of Bighead Carp and Silver Carp to dispense control agents more specifically to their intended target.
    Disrupting Early Life
    USGS and the University of Illinios developed a tributary assessment tool to help establish which Great Lakes tributaries might be most susceptible to Asian carp spawning and enabling safe egg development. The Fluvial Egg Drift Simulator (FluEgg) allows researchers to study egg development and its relationship to flow and temperature in rivers. Managers can use this information to understand where Asian Carp reproduction is most likely to occur, and to take actions.

    The time needed for hatching of eggs is affected by water temperature; and the speed of river flow influences egg mobility and whether they end up sinking to the bottom. Sinkers likely die, and eggs that are transported too quickly down the river and into a lake, may not have enough time to hatch.

    Tatiana Garcia, from the University of Illinios student and author on the model’s report, describes it this way on “The location of the eggs is tracked in time and three-dimensional space. The model helps answer the question of, if carp have spawned at a certain location, how will the eggs be dispersed downstream? Will they sink? Will they hatch before reaching the Great Lakes? The answers to these questions are critical components in research to determine if the Asian carp can establish a sustainable population in the Great Lakes.”
    3. A 3rd Permanent electrical barrier in work in CAWS upstream of Barrier IIa and 11B near Lockport – complete in 2017. This barrier is to replace a temporary barrier that exists.

    4. Development of risk assessment models to help decision makers on potential risks for species and locations.

    There is much research going on to understand and help stop Asian carp from the Great Lakes.
    Here are some examples where Canada is contributing:
  • In 2011, Canada worked on a bi-national risk assessment on Bighead carp. Essentially, the study found that the Great Lakes are suitable for their development, it would take about 7 years for impacts to be realized, and that the ecological disruption would be significant. Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducted a Socio- Economic Impact which found that the economic risks to Canada is about 390 billion in about 50 years.

  • Current Canadian research is being conducted to study how fishes move through canals, a key pathway for invasive fishes, as well as how fish movement could be controlled.

  • Bi-national risk assessments are also being conducted on Black and Grass carp.
  • 5. USACE working towards solutions on other pathways of medium risk

  • Little Killbuck Creek Pathway - The GLMRIS Aquatic Pathway assessment report (USACE) rated this connection medium risk for Silver Carp, Bighead Carp, and Black Carp (as well as other nuisance species transfer between basins). Closure options were developed for Sept 30, 2015, which have gone on for evaluation with the OHIO DNR.

  • Ohio-Erie Canal Pathway - The GLMRIS Aquatic Pathway assessment report (USACE) rated this connection medium risk for Silver Carp, Bighead Carp, and Black Carp (as well as other nuisance species transfer between basins) as a medium risk. The OHIO DNR is working with USACE on closure options which were to be completed in September 2015. These plans would then be discussed with affected parties.

    The above points provide more actions, but again is far from a complete list on interim measures. There are also bigger, up to 25 years away solutions discussed below. If you would like to email us about further efforts on Asian carp prevention measures, please email Communications.

  • What is GLMRIS?

    GLMRIS stands for the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study; which was conducted by USACE (United States Army Corps of Engineers) by authorization of Congress in 2007. The point of the study was to provide a range of options and technology to prevent aquatic nuisance species (ANS) from transferring between the Great Lakes Basin and the Mississippi River Basins via aquatic pathways. The study notes that prevention is the best to defence to reducing the risk of ANS establishing in either basin. The study was released in 2014.
  • In 2012, Congress modified the focus of the study to 5 pathways in the Chicago Area Waterways(CAWS), as they were determined to be the most likely entry point for ANS.
  • USACE narrowed a list of 254 ANS species to 13 that posed the greatest risk. 3 for the Great Lakes (Scud, Bighead Carp, Silver Carp), and 10 that pose a risk to the Mississippi River Basin)
  • The study produced 8 alternatives ranging from do nothing and maintain the status quo to complete separation of the basins; from non-structural options to development of new structures. Costs ranged from 68 million to about over 18 billion USD before annual costs. Time to implement ran up to 25 years for some alternatives.
  • It also explores the impacts to to "uses and users" of CAWS, as well as some ways to minimize the negative impacts of the options in order to reduce risks of flooding, natural resources, water quality, and navigation.
    • Here is a short summary from GLMRIS of the options:
      1. Do nothing - Continue with current efforts and spend levels(i.e., the electric barriers, monitoring etc.)
      Modifications and changes to current CAWs system
      2. Nonstructural control technologies (i.e., education, monitoring, herbicides, ballast water management)
      3. Specialized lock, lock channel, electric barriers and ANS treatment plants at two mid-system locations in the CAWS.
      4. CAWS buffer zone using the same technologies as number 3, preventing downstream passage from Lake Michigan at five points and preventing upstream passage at a single point at Brandon Road Lock and Dam.
      Hydrological separation
      5. Material barricades separating the basins at 4 locations along the lakefront of Lake Michigan.
      6. Material barricades separating the basins at 2 mid-system locations .
      7. Material barricades at 4 mid-system locations, leaving the Cal-Sag channel open.
      8. A hybrid of technology and material barricades at 4 mid-system locations, leaving the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal open.

    Hydrological Separation

    Updated: February 29, 2016

    While there is general understanding that eventual separation of the two watersheds is the best solution to stop ANS, there are also concerns about the potential impacts of what happens when the hydrological link is broken.

    The hydrological separation of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin could cost $18 billion USD, outside of annual costs. It means radically altering the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), which is the only navigable connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Basin.

    On the other hand, CAWS has been determined as the most likely source for invasive species movement; and fighting invasive species costs billions of dollars annually. According to studies cited on, there is a $7 billion annual 'invisible tax' for aquatic invasives in the Great Lakes alone that is caused by reduced production of resources16. The socio-economic impacts of an established Asian carp population in the Great Lakes for Canada (excluding Lake Michigan) are estimated at 390 billion over 50 years, according to Department of Fisheries and Oceans.14. It is not surprising that many believe prevention is more affordable than continually paying for managing them when they are established.

    Who is opposing it and why?

    The biggest opponents are commercial shipping, which send about 15 million tonnes of commodities through the waterways every year. Hydrological separation could cost the commercial cargo industry between $210 million and $250 million (U.S.) annually, according to a Star article22. It could also take about 25 years to complete.

    Consider this example: the Indiana port of Burns Harbor says it derives $1.9 billion from two-way barge traffic up and down the waterway system. That would take a financial hit, but there are also environmental factors to consider. One barge load is equal to the weight load of 70 trucks. Multiply that by the 30 to 40 barges that travel through Indiana each day, and the resulting 210 to 280 additional trucks needed to do the job would lead to significantly increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

    For a perspective on the state of hydrological separation, Georgian Bay Forever has asked the Executive Director, David Ullrich of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative to provide GBF with a status update on this issue from the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) Advisory Committee, whose members have met since 2014. The Committee includes representatives from 30 public and private stakeholders that benefit from and have responsibilities related to the CAWS, as well as regional stakeholder groups representing commercial, recreational, and environmental interests.

    They reached consensus on a letter sent to President Obama in January 2016. Essentially, the CAWS Advisory Group urged for expedited work on an aquatic invasive species lock or system that would provide protection comparable to full physical separation in the long-term.

    According to Ullrich, many stakeholders still maintain that full physical separation should be the solution, and all recognize it is the most effective way to stop the movement of invasive species in both directions. Others argue that this approach would interfere too much with transportation. The Advisory Committee will continue meeting in the coming year to keep the mid and long term solution process moving and to address other issues that arise.

    For the full update on the CAWS Advisory Committee written by David Ullrich, and the CAWs Advisory 2015 letters to president Obama, please visit this link.

    The other perspective as previously stated, CAWS has been determined as the most likely source for invasive species movement; and fighting invasive species costs billions of dollars annually. According to studies cited on, there is a $7 billion annual 'invisible tax' for aquatic invasives in the Great Lakes alone that is caused by reduced production of resources16. GBF has cited several other sources in this article about the high costs of controlling invasives.

    It is not surprising that many believe prevention is more affordable than continually paying for managing them when they are established.

    If you would like to email us with any information on Asian carp, please reach out to communications.

    Great read- Summary of GLMRIS

    A summary of USACE's options for 2 way prevention of aquatic nuisance species between the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes Basin.4 options involve complete hyrologic separation.
    GLMRIS study, The Great Lakes

    Some helpful definitions: Hydrologic separation- use of physical barriers placed in waterways to block aquatic connections between basins. Buffer zone- an ANS-treated area of waterway created between upstream and downstream control technologies.

    Sources and acknowledgements:

    Thank-you to all the sources and references in this post

    Note - I try to bring together information to help understand Asian carp. I do use sources to provide information and visuals. I do my very best to attribute properly and try very hard to get it right. If I have made an inadvertent mistake around recognizing someone’s work or misinterpreting the work, please let me know via email at communications and I will correct.

  • . Further great information, and great pictures and representations can be found there.
  • A source for purpose and finds was Becky Cudmore, from Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Pêches et Océans Canada.
  • Invasive carp.
  • A source for findings:
    < Here is a great video and article from Voice of America, discussing theIndiana berm in detail.
  • WGNtv article and videoThis Illinois town has more Asian carp than any place else on earth. Posted 9:30 PM, October 13, 2014, by Nancy Loo and Pam Grimes, Updated at 07:23am, October 14, 2014
  • be 9)
  • Numbered References
    1 call. Asian carp could forge threat, January 09, 2016 in Science. Retrieved February 29, 2016 at "
    2 Michigan Daily. Impact of Asian carp on Great Lakes could be overestimated. Megan Doyle. Friday, January 8, 2016 - 1:19am . Retrieved February 29, 2016 at
    3 Michigan Daily. Impact of Asian carp on Great Lakes could be overestimated. Megan Doyle. Friday, January 8, 2016 - 1:19am . Retrieved February 29, 2016 at

    4 Chicago Tribune Electric barriers stop big Asian carp, tests show March 25, 2011|By Katherine Skiba. Retrieved February 29, 2016 at
    5 Chicago Area Waterways. . Retrieved February 29, 2016 at
    6 of Waterloo. Waterloo stories.When invasive Asian carp look for love in all the right places. By Victoria Van Cappellen . Retrieved February 29, 2016 at
    Yahoo News. Study says Asian carp eventually could make up one-third of combined fish weight in Lake Erie John Flesher, The Associated Press, The Canadian Press. January 4, 2016. Retrieved February 29, 2016 at"
    8 Frequently asked Questions. what is eDNA, and how is USACE using it? John Flesher, The Associated Press, The Canadian Press. January 4, 2016. Retrieved February 29, 2016 at
    10Page 3 of the Asian Carp Strategy Control Framework 2015 shows the massive distribution growth of Bighead and Silver Carp from 1990 to 2010 in the Mississippi River and Ohio Basins.
    11Page 5-6 of the Asian Carp Strategy Control Framework 2015
    12 Page 14
    15 October 12, 2015.
    18 Sweetnam, David. Keeping the critters out. Georgian Bay Forever, Spring 2012 newsletter issue. Page 5
    19 Sweetnam, David. Keeping the critters out. Georgian Bay Forever, Spring 2012 newsletter issue. Page 5
    20ASian Carp. COntrol Strategy Framework, June 2015 June 2015 Page 14. Retrieved March 21, 2016
    21 Retrieved March 21, 2016 at
    22Aulakh, Raveena. “Meet Canada’s Asian carp detective.” Sept 28, 2015. Retrieved from