TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (WWJ/AP) — A federal study says the most feared types of Asian carp would find plenty of food if they reached Lake Michigan.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, Asian carp is a catchall name for species of silver, bighead, grass, and black carp from Southeast Asia. The huge, hard-headed silver carp also pose a threat to boaters.

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“The fish can leap out of the water when startled by boat engines, often colliding with people and causing injuries,” the NWF says.

Asian carp consume up to 20 percent of their bodyweight per day in plankton and can grow to over 100 pounds. Without plankton to consume, native fish could die off.

“It is crucial to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes,” the NWF says. “Once established in an ecosystem they are virtually impossible to eradicate. Adult Asian carp have no natural predators in North America and females lay approximately half a million eggs each time they spawn.”

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Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey used computer models to estimate Lake Michigan’s suitability for bighead and silver carp. They have advanced up the Illinois River, which is linked to Lake Michigan by other waterways.

Government agencies are using electric barriers and other strategies to block their path to the lake, where it’s feared the carp would out-compete many native species.

Using satellite imagery, the scientists found that nearshore and bay areas of Lake Michigan have plenty of algae, the carps’ food of choice.

Study leader Karl Anderson says that means if the carp reach the lake, they’ll likely congregate in coastal areas, where human activity is heaviest.

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