Officials say removing millions of pounds of carp from Utah Lake will net big financial return

Posted at 9:02 PM, Feb 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-12 23:53:24-05

UTAH COUNTY -- Crews are pointing to carp as the culprit for Utah Lake's brown water and lack of biodiversity. The fish first made their appearance in the 1800s, and now millions have taken over and the Utah Lake Commission is working to get most of them out of the water.

For the past four years, a crew has been working to remove the carp out of the water by the thousands, all to restore the lake and protect other species and plant life.

“Carp have been very destructive here in Utah Lake," said Mike Mills of the Utah Lake Commission. "Some people kind of refer to them as ecosystem engineers the way they feed, they cause a big change in the ecosystem. They root out aquatic vegetation, stir up nutrients, make the water a little less clear than it probably could be."

Crews are only about halfway done removing the 32 million pounds of carp and funding is running out.

“In order to keep this process going, we need about $700,000 annually," Mills said. "We're hoping to get some money from the state legislature."

If the project is completed, they anticipate a $94 million return in the next 20 years through increased recreational and commercial fishing.

But what happens to the millions of pounds of carp taken from the lake? Mills said some are sold to mink farms, but most are taken to the dump and made into compost.

“It’d be great if we had some beneficial use that was wonderful to use this protein source, and we've researched that a lot and spent a lot of money trying to find that solution but there's just nothing out there that could pay for the whole project or is a good use for the fish,” Mills said.

The commission says even though they're only halfway done, they're already seeing changes in the lake. They said the water is becoming more blue and other species are thriving.