The State of Michigan seeks innovative ideas to keep invasive bighead, silver, and black carp out of the Great Lakes.
Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature have authorized $1 million to launch a global search for innovative thinkers who can provide the best solutions to this looming crisis.
Silver carp and bighead carp are within 10 miles of the three electric barriers built to prevent invasive carp from entering Lake Michigan through the Chicago Area Waterways System.
These fish can grow to over 100 pounds. They jump out of the water to threaten boaters, out-compete native species for food, and can take over an entire river system.
If that happens in Michigan, it will affect the core of who we are as Michiganders and what we love about our great state.
What is at Stake
- A $7 billion fishing industry in the Great Lakes
- Water recreation - a major attraction in Michigan's tourism economy, generating $38 billion in economic activity
- The health of the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world
A global search will begin in August for new and innovative solutions to prevent invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes. Cash prizes will be awarded for one or more solutions submitted in the upcoming challenge.
The Invasive Carp Challenge will be hosted by the crowdsourcing company InnoCentive. Interested solvers can join InnoCentive's solver network at any time, free of charge. Visit the InnoCentive Challenge Center on or after August 1 to register and submit your solution. You can learn more about InnoCentive and register as a solver today, but note that you will not be able to submit your solution until the challenge opens.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are invasive carp?
There are several species of carp that are considered invasive because they are capable of causing harm to the economy, environment or human health. These carp are native to Asia and have been introduced into the United States. Invasive carp include the following species:
- What kind of harm can invasive carp cause?
Bighead, silver, black and grass carp each pose different threats to the Great Lakes and Michigan’s waters and can cause significant harm to lake and river ecosystems, sport and commercial fishing, boating and water recreation, and may even cause harm to humans.
Learn more about the specific threat caused by each invasive carp species:
- Are invasive carp in Michigan or the Great Lakes?
So far, bighead, silver and black carp have not been found in Michigan waters. There is no evidence that these three carp species have colonized or are present in any numbers in the Great Lakes.
Bighead and silver carp are spreading to lakes, rivers and streams in the Mississippi River and other waterways in the Great Lakes region. They have been moving steadily north but are not yet established in the Great Lakes. Recent reports by the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee indicate that bighead and silver carp are just 10 miles from the three electric barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System, and only 47 miles from Lake Michigan.
Black carp have recently been discovered at mile 137 of the Illinois River, 110 miles closer to Lake Michigan than previously known.
Grass carp have been found in low numbers in all the Great Lakes, except Lake Superior, since the early 1980s (most often in Lake Erie). In some Great Lakes states, grass carp have been introduced into waterways for aquatic nuisance weed control since the 1970’s. Though grass carp pose a less significant threat of harm, Michigan is taking a proactive approach with regulations, enforcement, and using a scientific approach to increase the effectiveness of control efforts.
Bighead, silver, grass and black carp are all prohibited species in Michigan. It is illegal to possess or stock these invasive carp in Michigan. However, sterile – or triploid – grass carp may still be used for stocking water bodies in some other states, including Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York.
- What kind of carp are people catching in Michigan and the Great Lakes?
Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are widespread across the U.S. An increasing number of sport anglers in Michigan enjoy battling these fish, and some charter operators now offer carp excursions.
Common carp were brought to the United States during the late 1800s as a popular food from European and Asian markets. Native to Eurasia, common carp are found today in the Great Lakes, large inland lakes and reservoirs, small and large rivers, swamps, canals and drains across Michigan. Common carp often are found in places where water quality is less than ideal.
Common carp average 15 to 32 inches and 4 to 31 pounds. They can be distinguished from invasive carp because common carp have triangular heads, blunt snouts and small barbels (fleshy, whisker-like filaments) at the corners of their mouths.
Because they are found in waters across the U.S., and they are no longer a popular food, sometimes common carp are considered a nuisance species. However, they are not considered invasive in Michigan.
- How did invasive carp get to the U.S.?
Bighead and silver carp were imported into the southeastern U.S. in the 1970s to remove algae and suspended matter out of catfish farm ponds and wastewater treatment ponds. Similarly, grass carp were imported to manage weeds in farm ponds. Black carp were likely imported with shipments of bighead, silver or grass carp. While the exact manner of release into the wild is still debated, it is widely believed during large flood events in the mid-1990s, some of the farm ponds overflowed their banks and invasive carp were released into local waterways in the Mississippi River Basin.
In the mid-1980s, a grass carp sterilization program was put in place to reduce the risk of introduced fish reproducing and reaching nuisance levels that would result in detrimental impacts. The sterilization program has worked to some extent, but fertile fish are still being captured in locations where only sterile fish introduction is authorized.
- How can I identify invasive carp?
Bighead and silver carp
Bighead and silver carp have eyes situated below their toothless mouths. Both have downturned mouths that appear to be frowning. Silver carp may grow to longer than 3 feet and weigh up to 60 pounds, while bighead carp are even larger – up to 5 feet long, weighing up to 90 pounds. Adult bighead carp are dark gray, with dark blotches. As the name implies, silver carp are silver colored with white bellies.
Grass carp can grow to more than 5 feet long and weigh more than 80 pounds. They have eyes that sit in line with their mouths, or slightly above, and scales that look to be crosshatched.
Black carp are the largest of the four invasive carp species. They can be over 6 feet long and weigh more than 150 pounds. These fish have blackish-brown-bluish scales and an almost white belly.
This video shows how to identify bighead, silver, grass and common carp
For more information, visit the invasive carp identification page
- Can I legally catch invasive carp in Michigan?
Bighead, silver and black carp are not known to be in the Great Lakes or Michigan waters. Grass carp have been found in low numbers in all the Great Lakes, except Lake Superior, since the early 1980s (they are most often found in Lake Erie).
Bighead, silver, grass and black carp are all prohibited species in Michigan. This means that it is unlawful to possess, introduce, import, sell or offer these species for sale as live organisms, except under certain circumstances.
However, if you happen to catch a fish you believe to be an invasive carp, do not release it. Report it as soon as possible by contacting Seth Herbst, DNR Fisheries Division, firstname.lastname@example.org 517-284-5841. Invasive carp can also be reported using the Invasive Carp reporting form.
- What if I see or catch an invasive carp in Michigan or the Great Lakes?