A few weeks ago Tom Scott, an amazing YouTuber with over 5 million subscribers visited the Electrified Fence System in Illinois. During the video he described the threat facing the Great Lakes and some of the options available to stem the tide of invasive carp. You can watch the video here.

As the inventor of an alternative system, one we believe is safer, cheaper and still highly effective, we believe it’s only right we put across the alternative view.

What is the problem facing the Great Lakes?

In the 1970s the invasive species of Bighead, Grass, Black and Silver carp were introduced to the Mississippi river basin. In the decades since they have spread far and wide, destroying native species’ habitat and food sources and they are getting closer and closer to the Great Lakes.

Centuries ago the Great Lakes were not connected to the Mississippi River but thanks to huge infrastructures like the Erie Canal, one of the largest river systems in the world is now connected to the world’s largest freshwater lake system. In his video, Tom Scott explains how there are several options, including electric barriers and even closing the connections.

The humane solution of BioAcoustic Fish Fences

In the 1990s, Fish Guidance Systems developed the BioAcoustic Fish Fence (BAFF.) This uses a curtain of bubbles, which carries a proprietary sound that deters the fish from entering a water space. There is currently a system on test at Barkley Lock, Kentucky which is showing impressive results.

The differences between Electric Fences and BAFF

Electric barriers are well placed as the last line of defence against invasive carp but the BAFF system can be used for more nuanced fish management downstream. 

Organisations such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Minnesota have both stated that the adaptability and non-discriminate nature of the BAFF is preferred.

Electric Fences can be very effective but affect all fish and can’t be calibrated to specific species. They are also seen by some as inhumane. A feasibility study prepared on behalf of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources highlighted the potential drawbacks of such systems. The study, which assessed the suitability of various deterrents in efforts to limit upstream movement of invasive carp in the Upper Mississippi River System, identified several significant challenges, including:

  • Extremely high initial construction costs
  • High monthly operating costs
  • Safety concerns that may include risks for swimmers, as well as the potential for sparks to fly between the electrodes and barges carrying flammable material. Sound-based solutions, however, have been developed with the protection of fish in mind.

Many of our systems have been designed specifically to guide migrating populations away from harmful routes, while others divert fish away from dangerous power plant intakes.

An acoustic barrier is a safe, humane approach informed by the science of a target species’ hearing characteristics. And they are now being used to deter invasive species, notably in the case of the BAFF (BioAcoustic Fish Fence) installed by Fish Guidance Systems at Kentucky’s Barkley Lock.

This system generates a ‘wall of sound’ by generating deterrent signals and injecting them into a curtain of air bubbles. The sound signals are customized to provide control over a target species and the BAFF requires less maintenance than an electrical barrier or physical screen.

The best of both worlds

As battles against invasive species intensify, a combination of deterrents may be the inevitable result. Research by the Invasive Species Unit of the University of Minnesota has shown the BAFF system is the most effective acoustic deterrent against invasive carp available.

This is in part because it combines multiple stimuli, with complex sound signals helping to prevent fish from adapting to the deterrent, in addition to High Intensity Light Bars. As the evolution and optimization of BAFF continues, guidance and deterrence of target species will only improve.

Our Offer to Tom

We would love to offer Tom a chance to see the Acoustic Fish Deterrent next time he is in the area, and look forward to seeing what amazing videos he puts out next.