A War in the Water: Man vs. Fish


Chloe Peterson, staff writer

Imagine boating down the Tennessee river and a fish jumping out of the water, smacking you in the face. Ouch! Did you expect that fish to jump out at you, well neither did anyone else. Would it irritate you even more if I told you that fish isn’t supposed to even be here in the first place. So what is this fish? Why is it here? And why does it keep attacking people? Better yet, What is going to happen because of it?

This fish is the Asian Silver Carp which is originally native to China. These fish primarily inhabit large rivers, as well as tolerate higher salinity levels and low oxygen levels. Silver carp feed on plankton, a primary food for many native species including larval fish and native mussels. They are voracious eaters, consuming up to 40% of their weight per day. These fast-growing fish can reach up to 60 pounds, and each female can produce up to one million eggs. Although the fight for food keeps them small in the Tennessee river. Silver carp leap up to 6 ft out of the water when disturbed by boat motors. Boaters can be and have been injured by these leaping fish. Fear of injury keeps people away from recreational boating activities such as fishing, tubing, and water sports. This has a negative impact on the economy in the state. Silver carp migration up the Tennessee River poses a grave threat to our boating, fishing and property values. 

How did it get here? In the 1970’s the Asian carp were introduced to the United States through fish farms in the south. The filter-feeding carp were ideal for keeping the farms clean. But they escaped after unexpected flooding and started making a new home in the Mississippi River basin. Because the Mississippi River basin is the lead water way for most of the United States river systems the carp were able to spread quickly and out of control. This is what happens when humans disturb the ecosystem without questioning the consequences. People have done this before with the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, a tiny insect killing all the Hemlock trees in the Smokey Mountains National Park. Another example is Kudzu which was intentionally used to stop soil erosion but ended up killing off native trees by growing over them. 

What can we do to stop it? Many people in the local area know the only way to stop the fish is to close Watts Bar and Fort Loudon locks down. Keep the fish from getting through. Although the government will not move fast enough to stop this. $25 billion dollars will do nothing unless we act now. There will be opposition, but that opposition needs to understand that it is the only way to save a $1.3 Billion annual economic loss and prevent the devastation of those lakes for sport fishing, recreation, property value decline. It happened in Kentucky and Barkley lakes, and will happen here if the lock is not closed. We have to close the locks until the fish barriers are built and are ready for use. These barriers are only as effective as the people behind them. 

Prevention is possible, and has been successfully accomplished in Michigan. Electronic barriers can be constructed at the TVA locks which will prevent the fish from entering a lock. This is a proven technology. The cost to outfit a lock is approximately $1-Million. This is a small cost to protect such a beautiful natural resource and a thriving economy. We must act now to begin engineering design, material acquisition, and construction. This process will take about two years; thus, we cannot wait.

How can you help? Please reach out to your government officials. Let TWRA know if you’ve seen the fish. If you’ve caught it put it on ice or freeze it but you must contact TWRA immediately. Take photo proof and document where you last saw it. We need to inform, motivate, organize and affect public policy to achieve the objective. We need to protect the Tennessee River and all its wildlife. We need to protect our way of life so we can share it with future generations.


Asian Carp Update June 3, 2020 Board Meeting



Silver Carp Report