NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in partnership with other agencies are working to find different solutions to fix the ongoing Asian carp problem affecting Tennessee rivers.
The plan is to install sound barriers below the Barkley Dam in Kentucky by the end of September. The body of water splits into the Cumberland River and Tennessee River.
The sound barriers will act like underwater speakers.
"There will be bubble curtains that are used to make walls. We want the fish to avoid this area, and the carp are fairly unique in the way that they are very sensitive to sound unlike other fish," said TWRA Chief of Fisheries Frank Fiss.
In addition, the TWRA will develop a program later in 2018 to incentivize the commercial harvest of Asian carp through a $500,000 grant.
Fishermen who would want to enter the carp business and subsidize from the program are provided with nets. Officials said it's a good and practical tactic to curb the abundance of carp.
"We know that if there is a value on the product, people will harvest there and take them to the market and sell them," said Fiss.
Asian carp have invaded Tennessee rivers within the last eight years. The species was first brought to the United States for use in the aquaculture industry, but the fish escaped into the Mississippi River because of floods.
The fish were able to swim through locks and dams, and they eventually reached other parts of the country, including Kentucky and Tennessee.
Asian carp are a hazard because they are able to jump in the air and hit people and damage boat property.
They also disrupt the food cycle by eating away at resources meant for other species.
While there's no hard data, the impact on the economy can be felt, especially to the $2.1 billion recreational fishing industry in the state.
Fishermen like W. Scott Morris hold bass fishing tournaments at Cheatham Dam every week. However, there is a noticeable decline in bass.
"When we catch a bass we usually don't see Asian carp around, but when we see a lot of Asian carp around then, we don't see any bass. We've seen a 100 percent decrease in the weights we had in the last two years," said Morris. "The lesser the ability to catch them impacts the willingness for us to go fish."
He said for towns near the water, tourism from such competitions is beneficial. However, there is no current data impacting tourism in some of the communities.
TWRA utilizes the “Don’t Dump Bait” strategy to help educate. It is illegal to move live Asian carp in Tennessee and illegal to have a live bighead or silver carp in possession. Young Asian carp look very similar to shad. It is illegal to stock any species of fish into public waters.
Anyone wishing to report illegal activity or in need of proper identification of a fish should contact their regional TWRA office.