[Here, and then gone. Recently, no Asian Carp were found among the more than 100,000 pounds of fish collected during a week-long fish kill on the Little Calumet River. Where are they now?]

Editors Note: File under Feedback: Architecture’s New Territories, an InfraNet Lab seminar at Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design / University of Toronto. Guest post and images are by Gerard Gutierrez.


The four species of Asian Carp, Bighead, Black, Silver, and Grass, have become a menace in the Mississippi River basin as desperate attempts have been made to stop its entrance into the Great Lakes. Its seemingly insatiable appetite has endangered many local species by consuming much of the local food sources as different Asian Carp species feed on aquatic grasses and various types of phytoplankton. The fish can reach a length of 4ft long and weigh up to 100lbs. This extreme size has also become a danger to recreational boaters and fisherman as the fish can jump up to 6ft out of the water when startled by incoming watercraft.

[Carp tracking since 1972. The US and Canadian Governments formed the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in 1955 specifically to battle sea lamprey, which had devastated the fishery.]

The initial introduction of this invasive species to the United States occurred in 1973 as Bighead, Silver and Black Carp from Taiwan were first introduced to the U.S. by an Arkansas fish farmer who used his own stock of Grass Carp as an experimental weed control agent. In 1979, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, working with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), utilized Silver and Bighead Carp as an experimental cleaning agent in sewage treatment plants around the state. By the 1990s, a large population of Silver and Bighead Carp escaped into the Mississippi River when Southern aquaculture facilities became flooded. This event started the migration of the fish up the Mississippi River and has resulted in the great proliferation of the various species, especially bighead and silver. At its most extreme concentrations, the Carp has accounted for over 90% of the total biomass within certain stretches of the Mississippi and Chicago river systems.

[Tests for an electric fish barrier in Chicago.]

The Chicago River system has become the final battleground for preventing the Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes at large. Numerous attempts have been made to prevent the carp’s movements, amongst these has been the installation of two underwater electric fences by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2002 and 2006. These experimental barriers soon proved to be a failure as fish were found upstream from the fence. When the barriers needed maintenance, a poison was dumped into the river to stop the fish as vital work was completed. Most recently, extreme measures have been proposed that would close the Chicago Shipping Canal as a last resort to stopping the Carp from entering Lake Michigan.

[Bow-hunting Carp as kill sport.]

Many entrepreneurs are currently developing new ways of utilizing the carp. The most obvious has become turning the many carp into a viable food export to various parts of Asia and certain parts of North America. Other emerging uses include processing the fish into animal feed, omega-3 oil and even using the fish as a source for bio-fuel. With these emerging uses, the fish can be envisioned as a lucrative future commodity that can be farmed on a large regional scale. In a future where the Asian Carp has entered the Great Lakes ecosystem, can large-scale Carp-farming help control the rampant growth of the invasive species? Certain stretches of the Great Lakes shores can be converted to large fish farming beds while many parts of the Mississippi River system can also become fish farming areas that would capitalize on the abundance of Carp that would be processed for food export, animal feed, omega-3 oil, and bio fuel.

Also from the Feedback seminar:
Corn Belt 2.0: Syncing the Starchscape, Matthew Spremulli
Re-Link: The Physical Network of Data, Ali Fard
Border Economies: the Maquiladora Export Landscape, Juan Robles
Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer, Fei-Ling Tseng

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