The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are collaborating to assess a recent positive environmental DNA (eDNA) result for silver carp—a species of Asian carp—within the lower Kalamazoo River, Allegan County, Michigan.
Two hundred water samples were taken in July 2014, along the Kalamazoo, from below the Caulkins Dam in Allegan County, to the mouth of the river. Laboratory results, which take several months to process, were reviewed by the DNR Oct. 2. One of the of 200 samples tested positive for silver carp eDNA. The positive sample was taken from just below the Caulkins Dam.
An additional 200 eDNA samples were collected in the same vicinity in June and resulted in no positive results. The July sample represents the first time that Michigan has experienced a positive result for silver carp eDNA in Michigan’s Great Lakes waters outside of Maumee Bay.
The findings indicate the presence of genetic material of silver carp, such as scales, excrement or mucous. However, there is no evidence that a population of silver carp is established in the Kalamazoo River. In addition to live fish, genetic material can enter water bodies via boats, fishing gear and the droppings of fish-eating birds. The lower Kalamazoo River is popular for recreational activities including fishing and boating. Activities such as these may increase the possibility of eDNA entering the river without the presence of a live silver carp.
“Although not conclusive, this finding heightens our vigilance and sets into motion a specific response,” said MDNR Director Keith Creagh. “We will work with our partner organizations and anglers on next steps to protect the Great Lakes and its tributaries against this significant threat.”
In response to the finding, the MDNR:
Requested additional assistance last Friday from the USFWS to implement a third eDNA surveillance effort on the lower Kalamazoo River. The collection of an additional 200 samples begins Oct. 7. Analysis of the samples will be expedited and results should be available within a month.
Will increase the presence of MDNR staff along the Kalamazoo River to enlist anglers to report any Asian carp sightings.
Will place information in local bait shops to broaden public awareness.
“At the state’s request, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing all the resources and technical expertise we have available,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Regional Director Charlie Wooley. “The Service is committed to working in a coordinated, landscape-level, approach to prevent the establishment of self-sustaining populations of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.”
Asian carp, including bighead and silver carp, pose a significant threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem, the $7 billion fishery, and other economic interests dependent on the Great Lakes and its tributaries. Silver and bighead carp are likely to compete with native and recreational fish species and are known to quickly reproduce.
“The Kalamazoo River results further point to the urgency of the Great Lakes states to be vigilant in seeking all solutions to keep Asian carp and other invasive species out of the Great Lakes basin,” said Creagh. “Michigan continues to advocate for hydrological separation between the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes basin as the best long-term solution to the threat of Asian carp. By working together as a united front, we can address the imminent threat invasive species pose to our quality of life.”
Anglers and boaters are vital stewards to prevent movement of Asian carp and other invasive species that threaten Michigan’s waters. Anglers are urged to become familiar with the identification of Asian carp, including both adults and juveniles, as the spread of juvenile Asian carp through the use of live bait buckets has been identified as a potential point of entry into Great Lakes waters. Anglers and boaters are strongly encouraged to drain all water from their boats and to clean boats and gear. Invasive species and eDNA are known to “hitchhike” within live-wells and attach to boat trailers, anchors and fishing gear.
A video demonstrating how to identify bighead and silver carp can be viewed on the USFWS YouTube channel at http://youtu.be/B49OWrCRs38?source=govdelivery. A video focused on identification of juvenile Asian carp species can be viewed at http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153–317128–s,00.html. Identification guides, frequently asked questions, management plans and an online reporting form for Asian carp sightings are available online at michigan.gov/asiancarp.
More information on eDNA is available here: http://www.asiancarp.us/edna.htm. Results of eDNA monitoring from the Midwest region are posted here: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/fisheries/eDNA.html.