Concern in Michigan is high after capture of a silver carp in the Illinois Waterway

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced environmental DNA (eDNA) sample results from the St. Joseph and Kalamazoo rivers show no signs of invasive silver and bighead carp.

According to DNR fisheries biologist Nick Popoff, none of the 260 eDNA samples collected May 1 and analyzed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicated the presence of genetic material for silver or bighead carp. Results and maps of the 200 survey sites on the Kalamazoo River and the 60 sites on the St. Joseph River are available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Fisheries website.

Video of eDNA sampling is available on the website.

The eDNA surveillance program – a collaborative effort between the Great Lakes states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2013 – samples high-priority locations for the presence of bighead and silver carp genetic material.

“Invasive carp thrive and reproduce in large, warm-water rivers with ample flow,” said Popoff. “Michigan’s southwestern Great Lakes tributaries provide suitable habitat and sufficient food, in the form of algae, to support these species.”

The Grand, St. Joseph and Kalamazoo rivers have two additional monitoring events scheduled this summer, with lab results expected in July and August. The eDNA monitoring program is a part of the early detection efforts outlined in Michigan’s Asian Carp Management Plan.

“Along with our participation in the eDNA surveillance program, we continue to be diligent with early detection efforts, such as conducting fish population surveys, increasing awareness among anglers, and maintaining an invasive carp reporting website for anglers to share any suspicious catches or observations that occur during their outings,” said Tammy Newcomb, the DNR’s senior water policy advisor.

Concern about the possibility of invasive silver or bighead carp reaching Michigan’s waters was heightened by the June 22 capture of an 8-pound, 27-inch-long silver carp in the Illinois Waterway. The fish was netted by a commercial fisher participating in a scheduled Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee monitoring event.

The silver carp was caught just nine miles from Lake Michigan, some 27 miles beyond the electric barrier system meant to keep the fish from entering the Great Lakes.

If invasive carp prevention measures fail, the Great Lakes and Michigan’s waters could sustain major ecological changes, causing losses to the $7 billion commercial and sport fishing industry. The potential for injury to recreational boaters and swimmers from leaping silver carp also could negatively affect the state’s $38 billion tourism economy.

While Michigan plays an active role in the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, the state only has jurisdiction and management authority over Michigan’s waters. The Illinois Waterway and the Chicago Area Waterway System are controlled by the state of Illinois, with the system’s locks operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.

For this reason, the Michigan DNR supports the release of the Army Corps of Engineers’ delayed Brandon Road study on the feasibility of enacting additional invasive species controls in the Chicago Area Waterway System.

“The potential for action is being deferred by the study’s retention,” said Newcomb. “At the same time, funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a key support for invasive carp monitoring, control and prevention efforts, may be in jeopardy.”

Michigan’s commitment to protecting the Great Lakes from the threat of invasive carp has taken the form of a $1 million investment in innovation. The Invasive Carp Challenge – – will solicit ideas from around the globe to help stop invasive carp from entering Michigan’s waters. The challenge, offering cash prizes for feasible prevention methods, is scheduled to open in mid-July 2017 through InnoCentive, a leader in crowdsourcing for federal, state and private sector solutions.

If invasive carp are detected in Michigan’s waters, the state is prepared to act with a plan of intensive monitoring to locate fish populations, netting and electrofishing to capture and remove the invasive fish, and if necessary, applications of rotenone, an aquatic pesticide.

“Controlling and eradicating aquatic invasive species is an extremely costly, difficult and long-term undertaking, with no guarantee of success. Preventing invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes is a far better prospect,” said Newcomb.

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