The invasive species has been spreading throughout the Midwest since the early 2000s. 

By Elisabeth Sherman
Updated August 08, 2017
Asian carp invasion
Credit: John Gress / Contributor / Getty Images

The federal government has unveiled a $275 million dollar plan to stop Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. The species is a series threat to the fishing industry in the area.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed the $275 million dollar budget in order to bolster defenses against the invasive species. The National Park Service believes that if the carp where to break into the Great Lakes, they would, “negatively affect the area's $7 billion/year fishing industry. By out-competing native fish species for food and habitat, carp may reduce the populations of native fish that are so important to fishermen.” Even if they are kept out of the Great Lakes, the NPS continues, their presence in the Mississippi River watershed would spell “disaster for our nation's freshwater ecosystems.”

The Corps of Engineers' first step would be to “upgrade the Brandon Road Lock and Dam,” in Illinois, according to a report from NPR. The plan also proposes using underwater sounds to scare away the fish and using an electrical barrier to stun any fish that swim too far upstream. An underwater electric fence built back in 2002 to keep the fish out of the Great Lakes didn’t stop their numbers from increasing.

The carp, originally introduced to the United States in the 1970s to control weeds and parasites, have a voracious appetite. According to Scientific American, the fish have since spread up the Mississippi River, where they have crowded out the native fish species. The carp lower the quality of water, too, which kills of freshwater mussels. They lay hundreds of thousands of eggs at time, easily hurdle low dams, and the fisherman who use the young carp as live bait has only helped them spread.

As far back as 2009, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have been concerned that the Asian carp will irreparably damage the fishing industry in Lake Michigan. The states filed suit in federal court demanding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers take action against the fish, and although that particular lawsuit was thrown out, it looks like this time the engineers are making good on long-standing promises to control the carp.