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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Application of broadband sound for bigheaded carp deterrence

Supervisor -  Jon Amberg
Principal Investigator
– Marybeth Brey


Bigheaded carp, especially silver (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), are invasive fish species that have established breeding populations dominating large regions of the Mississippi Drainage in the 20 years following escape from aquaculture facilities in Arkansas (1). These prolific filter-feeders directly outcompete native gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) and bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) (2) and potentially threaten entire food webs by altering lower trophic levels. Native fish, mussels and other aquatic invertebrates are the most at risk due to habitat modification by changing water quality and benthic chemistry and structure (3). Bigheaded carp continue to expand northward threatening other lakes, watersheds, and the Laurentian Great Lakes.

Both silver and bighead carp are sensitive to higher frequency sound than many native fish (4) and silver carp exhibit a unique jumping behavior in response to outboard motors, suggesting an aversion to high frequency sound. While control methods such as electricity and bubble barriers are better studied (5, 6), few studies have investigated the response of these fish to sound. Bioacoustics, using sound to modulate behavior, would be a novel method to control silver carp as it is inexpensive and environmentally friendly. Also, silver carp exhibit higher frequency hearing sensitivity, we may be able to target a higher frequency sound and limit the impacts to native species (4). Preliminary studies have demonstrated that broadband sound is an effective (>90%) way to restrict access of silver and bighead carp to one side of a concrete pond.  However, further research needs to be conducted to evaluate the efficacy of this technique at a larger scale and to address the potential for habituation to the sound stimulus to occur.

The goal of this study is to develop a cost effective, environmentally friendly acoustic deterrent system, operating levels, and procedures to discourage carp movement. Initial lab and pond trials to test the efficacy of broadband sound have been completed. These additional experiments are multi-disciplinary and will combine physiology, behavior and field studies to aid in the control of the invasive fish. Specifically, we will determine the optimal sound frequencies and amplitudes to optimize repulsion of bigheaded carp while avoiding harm to native species. This information will guide the development of the second objective which is to deploy an acoustic deterrent system in the field. The system could be integrated into locks or placed on buoys at strategic areas to prevent the upstream movement of the carp


  1. Determine the potential for bighead and silver carp to habituate to sound stimuli in concrete ponds at the USGS UMESC campus.
  2. Refine the configuration(s) of speakers and sound frequencies for optimal deterrent of bigheaded carps (silver and bighead) using increasing gradients of broadband sound in a simulated lock in a ½ acre pond on the USGS UMESC campus.

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