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Asian Carp IPM: Demonstration Project on the Illinois River (Full)

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Aquatic invasive species introduced into the United States from around the world through human activity pose threats to native species, sustainable ecosystems, human and wildlife health, and cost America over

$100 billion annually.

The bighead carp and silver carp are two species of invasive filter-feeding fish imported from Asia in the

1970’s to control algae in fish ponds and sewage lagoons.

These carp escaped and have infested much of the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries, some of which could serve as potential pathways to the Great Lakes.

One historical connection to the Great Lakes is the Illinois River, which is connected by the man-made

Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to the Chicago Area Waterways System that flow into Lake Michigan.

These fish pose a serious threat to aquatic ecosystems in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes Basins by competing with native mussels and fish for microscopic plants and animals, called plankton.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative action plan calls for combating invasive species as one of five urgent focus areas.

The Asian carp effort is being led by the President’s Council on Environmental Quality and the multi-agency

Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee .

The Committee developed an Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework that describes the many activities being conducted to address the Asian carp issue.

In this podcast, we will take a look at the Asian carp issue and one combined effort of USGS, Illinois

Department of Natural Resources, and Southern Illinois University to combat this invasion problem.


In North America, the Great Lakes binational sea lamprey control program has proven successful pest control programs cannot rely on a single method, and required the integration of multiple tools to reduce sea lamprey populations by 90% in most areas, creating a healthy environment for native fish survival and spawning.

Based upon this successful program, in order to combat the Asian carp invasion, resource managers will likely require a variety of tools in their management toolbox.

USGS and our partners have been enhancing proven techniques and developing a range of novel technologies

– including food attractants, sound barriers, sonar fish tracking, and commercial fishing – to be used for control and monitoring of Asian carp.

During the summer of 2013, the partnership conducted its first- ever integrated pest management demonstration project on the Illinois River to evaluate a strategy to integrate individual management tools to test their effectiveness to reduce or limit the ecological and economic impacts of Asian carp.

The demonstration site was located in a backwater lake of the Illinois River near Morris, Illinois where Asian carp are currently abundant.

The Goals for this Project were to:

1- Evaluate the effectiveness of integrating multiple control and monitoring technologies to reduce or alter

Asian carp populations.

2- Learn from this first demonstration to prepare for future integrated control and monitoring studies on other tributaries where Asian carp are established.


3- Identify and demonstrate complimentary Asian carp control and monitoring technologies for resource managers.


In this first demonstration, 5 technologies were integrated in an effort to explore what a resource managers’

tool box might need to monitor and control these Asian carp.

These Tools include: Population Assessments / Habitat Assessments / Food Attractants / Seismic Water Gun

Containment Barrier / and Commercial Fishing

Integrated Pest Management Tool: Population Assessments

In order to determine if control techniques will be effective, agencies must understand how many fish are present and where fish are distributed in a backwater lake or river.

In this demonstration researchers evaluated fish populations before, during, and after control tools were used to evaluate their effectiveness.

Scientists used two types of state-of-the-art, high definition sonar equipment used in freshwater and marine systems during their boating surveys – side-scan sonar and split-beam sonar.

Sonar technology involves sending sound pulses underwater from a boat’s transducer or transmitter and then converting the return echoes into digital images, much like a medical ultrasound sonogram.

The advantage of sonar is that you can “see” through dark or cloudy water in zero visibility conditions.

The split-beam sonar uses two sound beams alongside the boat that provided scientists with accurate

information about fish size, and their swimming path and direction in 3- dimension.

The side-scan sonar system used a high-definition digital towing device suspended from the front of the boat that provided high image clarity of fish and bottom structure.

The digital data taken in the field were processed after returning to the lab to provide detailed echograms or sound pictures of carp concentrations that allow for population estimation.

Integrated Pest Management Tool: Habitat Assessments

In addition to understanding carp movements and locations, scientists needed to understand habitat and the physical environment these fish live in.

Researchers have used a variety of technologies on the Illinois River to compare where carp populations are both abundant and scarce to yield information about water quality, depth, and flows that are crucial in both the development and assessment of monitoring and control technologies.

During the demonstration, sound waves from an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, coupled with a GPS unit for position, were used to map the bathymetry.

Bathymetry provided the measured depth and volume of the water in the study area. The sonar equipment also measured the depth, velocity, and flow into and out of the backwater. These data were used to calculate fish densities along with population assessments.

A “superstation” or high-tech streamgage was installed in the backwater to record water height plus water quality data.

These hydraulic and water quality data were collected during the demonstration to provide information on how changing water conditions and flow could affect the concentration and dilution of the food attractant.

Flow and water quality information are also components of a larger analysis looking for patterns in the way fish move and choose their habitat, and thus determine what river conditions attract or repel fish.

The “leading edge” of the Asian carp migration front has stalled above the demonstration site in the Dresden and Marseilles Pools of the Illinois River.

If this effort can identify factors that contribute to the stalling of the leading edge of the Asian carp migration front, that information could be used by managers to potentially control or prevent the expansion of Asian carp into new areas.

Integrated Pest Management Tool: Food Attractants

In order to improve the techniques to monitor, catch or control carp, scientists investigated the use of food attractants.

After extensive lab studies, the silver and bighead carp were found to be most attracted by offering an algal food mixture. Two types of food grade quality dry algae, Chlorella and Spirulina, were mixed with water to form the liquid mixture.

Underwater videos in the lab show a strong fish response to the algal stimulus. (video 1) This video shows a school of silver carp moving in and feeding on the microscopic algae particles in the water.

(video 2) Note how the carp quickly move in and rapidly begin pumping their mouths to move the algae

across their gills where the filter feeding takes place.

In the field during the demonstration, a cooler was used as a portable mixing and dispensing basin to deliver the algae mixture by aide of a battery-operated pump attached to a hose.

Three 6 foot feeding manifolds made of PVC pipe were placed on the bottom of the backwater lake and used to disperse the algal mixture to deeper water.

Several rinses of the mixing basin were used to deliver the full amount of algae at each of the feeding station locations. Bubbling and green coloration can be observed as the mixture is released into the water column.

In this demonstration, a total of 6 feeding stations were used in an attempt to attract carp into deeper water on the west end of the lake behind a water gun containment barrier.

Feeding stations were run for a period of 9 days for pre-trial baiting. Feeding during the pre-trial and demonstration was conducted twice daily.

Fish activity was monitored before and during feeding applications. Fish were observed in real-time being attracted to the feeding sites during the demonstration by assistance of sonar technology.

Data on carp and other fish sizes and movement as well as distance from the food source were recorded as digital data for post processing evaluations and to guide future applications.

Integrated Pest Management Tool: Seismic Water Gun Containment Barrier

A variety of barriers have been used successfully to stop or slow fish movements and also to contain fish for harvesting, including electrical, chemical, and sound barriers.

Scientists chose to explore the use of sound pressure waves, generated by water guns, as one possible solution to control these silver and bighead carp.

This seismic sound energy technology was developed for oceanic oil exploration, and was found to effect fish in a way that provided an opportunity to develop acoustic barriers for carp.

The water gun is a metal cylinder that works by firing a piston within multiple chambers that creates a jet of high pressure water that is expelled from the gun. A compressor generates the high pressure needed to operate the gun.

Before this technology could be used in the field, a thorough investigation of the sound pressure waves generated by the guns was conducted in a test pond by creating a pressure map showing wave strength and dispersal patterns.

Scientists next studied carp and native fish behavior in laboratory ponds in response to water guns, using underwater cameras, telemetry, and sonar to monitor fish movement.

After pond studies, field trials were conducted in an Illinois River side channel where sonar was used to test if fish cross the temporary sound barrier created by water guns.

After successfully completing pond and field experiments, a water gun containment barrier was set up at the demonstration site near Morris, IL using two water guns to contain carp in one end of the backwater lake.

Water guns were fired continuously for three days using the methods found effective in previous pond and the field experiments.

Feeding stations were used to attract carp on one side of the barrier and commercial fishing was conducted to reduce the carp population in the backwater.

High resolution sonar data were recorded on both sides of the barrier to examine and record fish movements to guide future deployment of water guns.

Integrated Pest Management Tool: Commercial Fishing

The commercial fishing of desirable and non-desirable fish on the Illinois River has well established techniques and is part of the culture and history for this area.

In the fight against carp, scientists and managers began to investigate if increased pressure from harvesting carp could prove successful in reducing populations.

The Illinois DNR began contracting commercial fisherman for Asian carp removal in 2010 as a defense to protect the electrical barriers placed in the Chicago Area Waterways System in place to protect the Great Lakes.

Between 2010 and 2013, they have deployed nearly 1,000 miles of nets in the upper Illinois Waterway removing over 100,000 carp weighing over 900 tons.

Over time data show there has been a reduction in the catch per unit effort or number of fish per hour fishing, and size structure has changed.

Additional studies have focused on mark and recapture in the Illinois River efforts to yield new information on movement and behavior to benefit the fishing efforts.

In 2013, large Great Lakes Pound nets were developed and placed in backwaters of the Illinois River as a trial. These surface to bottom fish traps can be operated for extended times across large areas like the mouths of backwater lakes to capture carp.

With this proven field success, scientists wanted to next test if this commercial harvest technique could be used effectively in combination with feeding stations and a containment barrier to remove carp in a backwater.

**INSET Text – “Fishermen in this video without personal floatation devices are not USGS employees;

the USGS requires its employees to wear personal flotation devices.”

During the demonstration, commercial fishing was used to fish down the population using gill nets both inside and outside the containment area of the backwater.

Each group fished for one four-hour period daily in a designated fishing area. Between each of the three trial days areas were randomly assigned to new groups to minimize capture bias among fishermen.

All carp were counted and disposed of by manufacturing them into liquid fertilizer. A subsample of fish were weighed and measured for future analyses.

Integrated Pest Management Project: Results

During the three-day integrated demonstration effort, over 1,000 Asian carp weighing nearly 15,000 pounds were removed from the Illinois River backwater site.

These federal and state partners worked together successfully to coordinate and conduct an integrated monitoring and control project to gain valuable information in the fight against Asian carp.

The monitoring tools proved effective in capturing both habitat and fish data that could be used both on-the- fly during these trials, and independently for future reference information.

The food attractant, water guns, and commercial fishing tools showed positive results, and lessons learned here will help prepare for future integrated control and monitoring studies on other tributaries where Asian carp are established.

All control and monitoring technologies used in this demonstration were complimentary and will be further developed for resource managers to consider as tools in the fight against Asian carp.

The multi-agency partnership will continue to develop a range of field sites with abundant Asian carp where multiple control technologies can be evaluated over time.

In the future, the partnership will coordinate visits at field demonstration sites to demonstrate how these technologies can be applied by managers that are responsible for implementing these tools to control Asian carp.

Participating Agencies:

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

USGS, Columbia Environmental Research Center

USGS, Great Lakes Science Center

USGS, Illinois Water Science Center

USGS, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

USGS, Western Fisheries Research Center

Special thanks to:

Hanson Material Service

Additional graphics provided by:

U.S. Geological Survey

USDA Forest Service

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Great lakes Fishery Commission

This podcast is a product of U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.


Title: Asian Carp IPM: Demonstration Project on the Illinois River (Full)


USGS and partners conducted an integrated pest management project on the Illinois River to determine the effectiveness of combining multiple tools in limiting populations of Asian carp. (Trailer version)Special Consideration: 1- Research partners - Southern Illinois University and Illinois Department of Natural Resources have provided images of field work for use in this video. 2- Free images have been used from websites of the following agencies: USDA Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Location: La Crosse, WI, USA

Date Taken: 6/23/2014

Length: 17:20

Video Producer: Randy Hines , USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Note: This video has been released into the public domain by the U.S. Geological Survey for use in its entirety. Some videos may contain pieces of copyrighted material. If you wish to use a portion of the video for any purpose, other than for resharing/reposting the video in its entirety, please contact the Video Producer/Videographer listed with this video. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this video.

Additional Video Credits:

Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
USGS, Columbia Environmental Research Center
USGS, Great Lakes Science Center
USGS, Illinois Water Science Center
USGS, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
USGS, Western Fisheries Research Center

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