Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Discovery of Asian carp eDNA in Sandusky Bay renews call for permanent barier

The discovery of Asian carp environmental DNA (eDNA) in the waters of Sandusky Bay and the Sandusky River has prompted at least one Ohio elected official to renew his call for a permanent barrier between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

Joining with their Michigan counterparts, officials with the Ohio Division of Wildlife said today that 150 water samples lifted from the Sandusky Bay and Sandusky River indicated that 20 of them have tested positive for the presence of silver carp eDNA.

The eDNA samples were collected as part of extensive sampling effort conducted earlier this summer for Asian carp in Sandusky Bay and Maumee Bay in western Lake Erie, said Rich Carter, the Wildlife Division’s Executive Administrator of Fish Management and Research.

However, says Carter, no Asian carp were found through intensive electro-fishing and test netting.

At present, eDNA evidence cannot verify whether live Asian carp are present, whether the eDNA may have come from a dead fish, or whether water containing Asian carp eDNA may have been transported from other sources such as bilge water, storm sewers or fish-eating birds, Carter says.

None of which is pleasing to the ears of Ohio’s senior U.S. Senator, Sherrod Brown.

Brown is pushing for a permanent hydrological separation as the best solution for keeping Asian carp out of Lake Erie.

“Though the summer boating and fishing season will come to an end soon, the threat of an Asian carp invasion still looms over Lake Erie,” Brown said.

Noting that an “invasion” by any of the various Asian carp species into the Great Lakes in general and Lake Erie in particular would become a serious blow to the region’s sport fishing industry, Brown all but wants to take hold of a welding torch himself and seal once and for all Chicago’s sanitary and transportation canal system.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must carefully study every option for permanently blocking this invasive species from entering the Great Lakes, including hydrologically separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River,” Brown says.

While Ohio and Michigan state officials aren’t prepared to pursue a declaration of war with either Illinois or Chicago, they will “continue to address the uncertainties about the status of Asian carp in Lake Erie,” Carter says.

Carter says as well that the Wildlife Division and its Michigan counterpart are analyzing whether or not any eDNA exists in Maumee Bay.

“This includes ramping up our search efforts for live fish or other sources of eDNA,” Carter said. “We will keep working with our angling public to be vigilant in watching for these species.”

“All parties continue to work together to assess the current status of bighead and silver carp within western Lake Erie bays and select tributaries,” Carter said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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