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Scientists Deter Invasive Carp with Noise Experiment

Aug 05, 2014 04:05 PM EDT
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Any Asian carp swimming up the Mississippi River will be getting an earful, as scientists from the University of Minnesota are trying to deter these invasive fish in an ongoing noise experiment.

The "acoustic deterrent system," designed to slow the upstream migration of the non-native fish, involves blasting an unpleasant sound through Mississippi waters - equivalent to about 20 outboard motors.

While the cacophony may be bothersome to humans and unnoticed by native fish, it irritates the invasive Asian carp so much that they turn around and swim in the other direction. Researchers are blaring this sound downstream every time the gates of Lock and Dam No. 8 south of La Crosse open.

"It produces a sound that we know, from experiments in the lab and observations in the field, they hate," Peter Sorensen, a professor and lead researcher at the university's Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Asian Carp, also known as silver carp or jumping fish, have been located in certain parts of the Mississippi River, specifically near the Iowa border, for many years. Until now, there hadn't been any technique in place able to combat this invasive species, WKBT reported.

However, locals, especially fisherman, worry that this noise experiment will scare off their valuable catch.

"A lot of these small villages, the tourist industry, you know we rely on the fishermen coming up here because we are known to be such a great source here and if you eliminate some of that, it could be millions of dollars," said Mark Clements, the owner of Captain Hooks Bait and Tackle in Genoa.

Researchers reassure people like Clements that the speakers will emit a specific frequency of sound that will only affect the Asian Carp because their hearing is more sensitive than the average native fish.

State and federal officials, as well as fishermen and scientists, are concerned that the carp could push out walleye, northern pike and bass.

"We're trying to buy as much time as we can while we learn more about these fish and how to deal with them," Sorensen told The Associated Press.

The $75,000 sound system was funded by state lottery funds and nearly $7,000 in private donations. Researchers at the University of Minnesota will evaluate the system for the next 2 ½ years.

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