Faced with the threat that Asian carp could enter the
Great Lakes, Michigan is turning to the public for new ideas and plans to
offer a prize to whoever comes up with a way to stop the voracious fish.
search challenge comes after the U.S. government and others have spent
hundreds of millions searching for a solution to stop the carp from entering
the world’s largest freshwater system. If they aren’t stopped, officials
fear the aggressive fish will crowd out prize native fish and hamper
recreational boating in large sections of the lakes, which stretch from
Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in the west to New York and Pennsylvania
in the east and from Ontario, Canada, in the north to Illinois, Indiana and
Ohio in the south.
"I think in the
fight against Asian carp, there aren’t really any bad ideas,” said Molly
Flanagan, vice president of policy for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “We
have to try a bunch of different things.”
Michigan alone has
a $38 billion tourism industry, much of it focused on the outdoors, and the
Great Lakes region has a $7 billion fishing industry. Asian carp have been
spotted 45 miles from Lake Michigan. If the fish make it into that lake,
they could make their way into the other Great Lakes.
Details on how much
prize money will be offered are still being worked out. Officials also
haven’t determined how many winners might be chosen.
Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder allocated $1 million to develop the
challenge. Most of the money will go toward a prize for an idea or ideas
that are deemed feasible, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
spokeswoman Joanne Foreman said. The rest will be used to create the
challenge, which includes working with InnoCentive, a crowdsourcing company
that will host the event online. The campaign is expected to go live this
“Somebody out there
possibly could have a really good idea,” Foreman said. “Maybe they’re not in
fisheries or hydro-engineering.”
Asian carp were
imported to the U.S. in the 1970s to gobble scummy algae from Deep South
fish farms and sewage ponds. They escaped into the Mississippi River and
migrated north, reaching dozens of tributaries, including the Illinois
River, which is linked to Lake Michigan by a man-made shipping canal near
Chicago. Electric barriers are set up to keep them out of Lake Michigan, but
skeptics fear young fish will slip through.
Since 2010, more
than $388 million has been spent to battle the invasive species Ń mostly by
the federal government.
have developed ideas to halt their advance. Some have shown promise in lab
trials but are still in experimental phases; others have failed.
Leon Carl, Midwest
regional director for the U.S. Geological Survey, said one idea called a
“carp cannon” shot pressurized water to scare the fish. The carp eventually
"They are highly
evolved animals, pretty evolved fish,” Carl said. “They are not a primitive
fish by any means.”
favor putting physical barriers in the Chicago Area Waterways System, but
shippers oppose that because they say it would slow the movement of millions
of tons of cargo.
The Army Corps of
Engineers had been developing a plan to strengthen defenses at a crucial
lock and dam near Chicago, but President Donald Trump’s administration
recently put that on hold.
Asian carp are like
a vacuum cleaner, gorging on plankton that native fish need, which can
unravel the natural food chain. Silver carp have the added danger of jumping
out of the water at the sounds of boat engines and hitting boaters and
“They are ferocious
eaters. They can get up to 60, 80, 100 pounds,” said David Hamilton, senior
policy director for aquatic invasive species for The Nature Conservancy.
“They eat a huge percentage of their body mass; a big fish eating many, many
pounds is going to wreak havoc at the base of the food chain.”