Monday, July 16, 2012

Asian Carp eDNA Found In 6 Western Lake Erie Samples

Jul 13: Federal and state wildlife officials working in conjunction with academic researchers announced six water samples taken from Sandusky and north Maumee bays tested positive for the presence of Asian carp environmental DNA in Michigan and Ohio waters. The positive samples were among 417 taken from Lake Erie in August 2011, and more than 2,000 samples taken from the Great Lakes Basin since 2010. The Lake Erie batch was recently analyzed and test results were confirmed by eDNA researchers. The six positive samples represent less than 1.5 percent of the Lake Erie samples. Four samples from Sandusky Bay, in Ohio waters, tested positive for bighead carp eDNA, while two samples from north Maumee Bay, in Michigan waters, were positive for silver carp eDNA.

    In response to these findings, electro-shocking and netting began on July 13, in Sandusky Bay with no evidence of Asian carp found. However, additional testing and monitoring are planned by the Ohio and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources in conjunction with partner agencies. The findings indicate the presence of genetic material left behind by the species, such as scales, excrement or mucous, but not the establishment of Asian carp in Lake Erie. Positive eDNA tests are regarded by the scientific community as an indicator of the species' recent presence, however, positive results can occur whether the organism was alive or dead.

    While the eDNA findings suggest the possible presence of the invasive species, officials have no physical evidence the fish have migrated to the Great Lakes. Prior to 2003, three individual bighead carp were collected in Lake Erie. No additional observations have been reported during the past decade.

    MDNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter said, "The results from these water samples are certainly concerning, as this marks the first time Asian carp eDNA has been detected in water samples from Lake Erie, or any of the Michigan waters intensively surveyed for the presence of invasive carp. Protecting the Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp is critical to the health of our sport and commercial fisheries and to the quality of life in Michigan. We are actively engaged in Asian carp surveillance programs throughout the Great Lakes, including Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie, and the Department stands ready to take the necessary and appropriate actions to investigate and respond to these test results."

    In response to the positive test results, officials from the Michigan and Ohio DNRs, MDEQ, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) are developing a plan of action in collaboration with the eDNA research team to obtain follow-up samples and test results as quickly as possible. Test results from future water samples will dictate the nature of further response methods.

    Since 2010, the MDNR, Ohio DNR, USFWS, University of Notre Dame, Central Michigan University and the Nature Conservancy have partnered to collect water samples from Great Lakes basin waters, including the Chicago Area Waterway System, southern Lake Michigan, western Lake Erie and tributary streams of lakes Michigan and Erie. The collaborative early-detection Asian carp surveillance program is funded by the USFWS with a federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant, administered under the Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework.

    The Lake Erie announcement follows rapid response action by the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee's (ACRCC) Monitoring and Rapid Response Work Group (MRRWG) announced July 9, which triggered intensive monitoring action in Lake Calumet and surrounding areas after three consecutive rounds of Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling yielded positive results for Asian carp eDNA [See WIMS 7/11/12]. The actions also follow the release of a July 12, bi-national Canadian and United States risk assessment released indicating that Asian carp pose substantial environmental risk to the Great Lakes if they become established there. Bighead and silver carps -- two species of Asian carp -- pose an environmental risk to the Great Lakes within 20 years, with the risk increasing over time [See WIMS 7/12/12].

    U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), author of the Stop Invasive Species Act signed by President Obama last week [See WIMS 7/2/12], issued a statement saying, "This alarming discovery underscores the need for action now to stop Asian carp and other invasive species from devastating our Great Lakes and the hundreds of thousands of Michigan jobs that depend on them.  Temporary fixes have proven inadequate and evidence of this dangerous invasive species is now being detected for the first time in the Great Lakes. The new law I authored with Congressman Camp [R-MI] requires the Army Corps of Engineers to act quickly to prevent the destruction of the Great Lakes ecosystem, which is critical to our Michigan way of life."

    Access a release from MDNR with links to more information and a map (click here). Access the Michigan Asian Carp website (click here). Access the ACRCC website for more information (click here). Access the statement from Senator Stabenow (click here).

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