Silver Fin Solutions Current Projects
Updated: 6 days ago
Currently Contracted Silver Fin Invasive Carp Projects
Silver Fin Solutions (SFS) is a not-for-profit, conservation research entity which is especially focused on creating new and improving existing equipment and methods of efficiently removing invasive carp, formerly called Asian carp. SFS is a relatively new entity, but we have several staff that have attained advanced degrees in fisheries and together have accrued many years as biologists, researchers, and administrators. We also have leadership extremely dedicated to the goals of having significant impact on the science and mechanics of removing carp and have varied but extensive backgrounds in electrical engineering, generator systems, marketing, and accounting.
SFS also partners with businesses such as Vet Nets which is adept at designing and fabricating innovative nets and fish collection equipment. We are partnering with Ranken College in Missouri to provide curriculum for commercial fishing and other fish collection techniques, and are actively assisting commercial fishers with testing new gear to increase harvest efficiencies and preserving fish quality during and after harvest. For commercial fishers to be successful, it is imperative that buyers and markets are available to them. Therefore, SFS is actively reaching out to existing processors and buyers as well as looking for new businesses and markets.
SFS is active in all those roles and is engaged in several projects, each with slightly different objectives and methods. In 2014, with considerable guidance from the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association, several Ohio River basin states and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) constructed an Ohio River Basin Invasive Carp management and research “Framework” using specific goals and objective provided in the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force’s “Management and Control Plan for Bighead, Black, Grass, and Silver Carps in the United States, 2007”. The Framework provides participating states with guidance to conduct work to monitor, control, and remove Invasive carp in the basin. In 2019, additional funds were approved for the U.S. Fishing and Wildlife Service to provide states with a portion of $25 million to fund efforts that allow each state to create programs to reduce numbers and potential harm that invasive bigheaded carp have on various water bodies' species diversities, recreational boating, and fishing. In 2021, SFS was contracted to conduct the following projects to work with agencies to help them satisfy some of their research and removal goals.
Silver Fin Solutions and Missouri Department of Conservation Contract
(June – October, 2021)
Silver Fin Solutions (SFS) contracted with the Missouri Department of Conservation in summer 2021 to remove invasive carp from two general areas: 1) The upper Mississippi River’s pools 20 - 22; and 2) the lower Mississippi River below Cairo, Illinois. The harvest effort will be conducted between September and November of this year. The areas to be sampled and enumerated for relative densities are believed to hold lower numbers of invasive carp, and the contract’s purpose is to determine if methods can be deployed to further reduce low-level populations of the invasive fish and reduce propagule pressure. This means to reduce the persistence of the carps’ ability to move upriver from the areas worked.
Collecting invasive carp from the Mississippi River and its tributaries requires a diversity of approaches and equipment of which will be dependent on factors such as water flow, depth, clarity, and temperatures. Additionally, substrate in and on the river creates challenges in accessing and removing the fish. Working a minimum of 30 field days, SFS will test several methods of removal including using special electrofishing equipment, possibly in combination with various net gear. If successful, this effort will provide more factor-specific guidelines for methods and gear to harvest invasive carp found in low densities but strategic to reducing the propensity for the fish in expanding their ranges of recruiting populations.
Silver Fin Solutions and Murray State University Contract
(February 2021 – October 2022)
A portion of Kentucky’s funds are provided by USFWS’ grants directly to Murray State University (MSU) to conduct several invasive carp research projects. In fall 2020, MSU reached out to SFS with offers to conduct four of the invasive carp research projects in Kentucky Lake and its tailwaters. The research generally includes projects to explore new and refine existing invasive carp mass-harvest techniques for large reservoirs and their tailwaters to determine the efficacy of using persistent carp removal efforts in the tailwater to cause deterrence to invasive fish attempting to enter Kentucky Lake. More detailed information on each of these SFS projects will be provided in future blogs on our Projects webpage as they are conducted.
Modified Unified Method for Asian Carp Harvest
For this project, MSU’s responsibilities for its USFWS grant funding was to assist the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct tests designed to assess the Modified Unified Method (MUM) of harvesting Asian carp in bays of large reservoirs. The MUM employs unique methods of herding, corralling, and harvesting Asian carp from entire reservoirs, or in this case, Kentucky Lake bays. If successful, the MUM could be useful not only for mass harvests of invasive carp, but potentially conducted in a manner that uses depletion methods for estimating fish densities within a project area. This information would also be useful to validate hydroacoustics and side-scanning tools, which are being refined to estimate Asian carp densities across the Mississippi River basin.
SFS’ role in the USGS 2021 winter project was to provide removal of netted invasive carp, total weights of fish harvested, and disposal of all harvests. SFS provided several boats, staff, trucks, trailers, a skid steer, a tug and barges, a crane, and an assortment of equipment for that purpose. We also invited commercial fishers to assist with disposal by taking the fish, free of cost, and transporting them to buyers of their choice. This project was completed in February 2021, and you can read more about it in another article on our "Projects" page.
Invasive Carp Harvest Areas
The intent for Harvest Areas (HA) was to provide designated seining areas for harvesting invasive carp. Those areas are available to any participants of KDFWR's Experimental Gears Program. To date, a few commercial fishers and the USGS have used the three HA's cleared. The intent of the HAs is to test whether seining in specific areas can represent another carp harvest tool. The HA's represent a miniscule proportion of the areas available for native fish in Kentucky Lake, and if seining is found to be a viable harvest method, the HA's could benefit the mission of removing as many invasive carp as possible from Kentucky Lake. At least 7 bays have been identified as potential invasive carp harvest sites. The bays are small enough to allow block nets to be set and have bottom contours that are conducive for seining. SFS has cleared three to date, and will clear two additional HA's in December 2021. at least 5 of those seining areas to create invasive carp harvest areas.
In each bay, KDFWR and SFS set marker buoys to inform the public that any debris, including artificial fish habitat structures along with sunken trees, etc. within the boundaries of the buoys will be removed. The harvest areas are approximately 200-300 meters long and wide, a relatively small area of each bay. The harvest areas will be used by SFS in winter 2022 during our Experimental Gears investigations to assess the feasibility of pushing and seining invasive carp in a manner that produces harvests exceeding current methods and efficiencies used by commercial fishers and the USGS' MUM.
Clearing a harvest area involves first scanning areas that are known to regularly hold relatively large numbers of invasive carp. After the areas are identified, KDFWR sets HA buoys in areas strategically identified as having bathymetry qualities necessary for successful seining. We scan the substrate for debris and mark immovable objects, and drag nets specifically designed to snag anything that would interfere with seining efforts. The effort requires good quality scanning equipment and very heavy duty equipment that can haul large, heavy objects away from the harvest areas. SFS has large boats and a significant crane mounted on a barge to tackle this project. Most snags encountered will be dragged out of the harvest area but will remain in the lake.
Experimental Gears Project
As part of the USFWS Framework grant, MSU contracted SFS to conduct the “Experimental Gear Project” designed to test more extensive variations of the USGS’ MUM protocols and test various other harvest methods as they become available. This effort will test variations in techniques for fish herding, seine designs, gear, and harvest methods. Kentucky Lake bays used for tests will be determined by KDFWR. SFS will scan potential areas prior to final decisions being made, and the designated harvest areas will be used for seining. Emphasis for this project will be placed on efficiencies of herding, seining, and fish removal gear and techniques that go beyond the USGS MUM.
The USGS’ MUM had been fairly effective at mass harvesting invasive carp in natural lakes of Missouri and Illinois, but two winters of testing the method in three Kentucky Lake bays have not been successful, largely failing during the two final steps: 1) pushing the carp from the distal area within the corral area (final cell where the fish are confined) into the seining area cleared of debris (harvest area); and 2) successfully seining the carps in a manner that contained the majority of fish encircled within the harvest areas. SFS plans to address the two most pervasive shortfalls of the USGS’ MUM techniques by testing significant alterations to final herding methods within a corral, using a new type of seining method that employs persistent collections throughout the seining process, and bringing the seine to our collection barges instead of onto shore or shallow water. We believe these alterations, and a few other adjustments to the USGS MUM and gear will greatly improve its utility in bays of large reservoirs. We are scheduled to conduct this project in January and February 2022. KDFWR will work with SFS at times and have observers at all harvest events. Specific schedules have not been set at this time and will be contingent primarily on weather.
MSU would also like to assist the USFWS to increase sampling effort for a relatively new method of sampling large reservoirs, Paupier and Dozer rigs. Since 2018, the USFWS has been engaged in invasive carp sampling research using electrified Paupier gear in Kentucky Lake. Sampling occurred during spring and fall in specific transect locations to determine the efficacy of the method for assessing relative densities of Asian carp. To date, the Paupier appears to have the potential to provide an index of relative abundance. The sampling efforts for 2020 and 2021 were canceled due to Covid-19 constraints. If the USFWS attempts sampling Kentucky Lake in 2022, SFS will offer to provide crews to operate an additional Paupier rig to enhance the USFWS’ effort and attain stronger statistical power for the abundance assessments. SFS has an experienced Paupier operator on staff who is attuned to USFWS sampling protocols.
SFS plans to test other harvest methods that we believe could be successful. The exact methods and gears are in the planning stages, but the concepts are sound. We hope to initiate tests of the new methods during winter of 2022
Kentucky Lake Tailwater Deterrence and Harvest
MSU was also tasked to conduct or oversee the Kentucky Lake Tailwater Harvest project, which was included in the SFS contract. SFS will conduct persistent pushing and harvest efforts below Kentucky Dam in the tailwater (Tennessee River) and in the lock canal. We will use a variety of gears and methods, including specialized electrofishing boats (Dozer, etc.), a variety of netting methods, and other gears as they become available.
Along with pushing and harvest efforts, SFS and MSU will collect data to identify factors associated with carp movement towards the dam. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority will also be essential partners on this project. KDFWR will also provide observers and some assistance when staff are available.
Millions of Asian carp frequent areas below dams in the Mississippi River basin. If successful, this project could provide a template for Asian carp removal below many other dams in the basin, and persistent harvest efforts should also reduce the number of invasive carp that annually enter Kentucky Lake through the lock chamber.