An experimental project designed to deter Asian carp from entering Lake Barkley in western Kentucky is now underway. If weather conditions remain stable, the project is scheduled to become operational by fall.
“We’re anxious to get this test underway because it has the potential to be a real game changer in the battle against Asian carp,” said Ron Brooks, director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
The project involves multiple agencies and partners in addition to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The Bio-Acoustic Fish Fence (BAFF) casts a barrier of bubbles, sound and light to deflect the noise-sensitive Asian carp from entering an area.
“Asian carp are sensitive to sound and disturbances in the water,” Brooks said. “The barrier, along with commercial fishing efforts already underway, aim to significantly reduce the number of Asian carp in Kentucky and Barkley lakes.”
Fisheries managers on the west coast of the United States use a similar system to guide the movement of trout and salmon.
Due to heavy rains, work on the in-river portion of the project was delayed until weather conditions improved. Weather plays a key role in the installation of the system.
This year has been unusually wet. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) concluded its flood control operations with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Ohio River on July 17, setting a record of 210 consecutive days coordinating operations and releases from Kentucky and Barkley dams. The previous record was 97 consecutive days.
Bighead and silver carp are commonly found in the Mississippi River and in the Ohio River up to the Markland pool near Covington. Bighead carp have been reported past the Greenup pool, north of Ashland, but are rare above the Markland pool.
In addition to the main rivers, these species have also been found in most of their tributaries, including the Tennessee, Cumberland, Green and Kentucky rivers among several others. Recently, Asian carp have been found in the tailwater of Taylorsville Lake and Green River Lake. They are assumed to be in the Barren River Lake tailwater.
Asian carp can outcompete native species for food. One mature female Asian carp can produce more than 1 million eggs each year.