Collaboration in Action to Protect the Great Lakes
BY JAMES BOASE, ALPENA FWCO WATERFORD, MICHIGAN-SUBSTATION
Fish biologists from the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) – Waterford Substation took part in a collaborative, multi-agency field exercise in Lake Erie near Monroe, Michigan in early September of this year. The main goal of the field exercise was to test the preparedness of the agencies in the event that an invasive species, such as Silver and/or Bighead Carp, were to be found in the Great Lakes and secondarily to take advantage of the equipment and personnel support to collect Grass Carp, another non-native species. Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Ohio Division of Wildlife were the lead agencies coordinating this effort. They were joined by fisheries personnel from Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ontario, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local commercial fishers.
The three day field exercise took place on Maumee Bay in western Lake Erie and involved fisheries sampling techniques such as seining, gill netting, and electrofishing. Efforts focused on the logistics for implementing an inter-jurisdictional response through the recently approved Mutual Aid Agreement signed by the Great Lakes governors.
Maumee Bay was selected as the target location for the exercise because; in the recent past (2011-2013) Silver and Bighead Carp environmental DNA (eDNA) had been detected in the Maumee River and Bay areas. Also, since 2010 Grass Carp have been occasionally captured (were potentially present) in this area of western Lake Erie. This year’s eDNA sampling resulted in no positive detections for Silver and Bighead Carp eDNA in this part of the Great Lakes.
During this response exercise two Grass Carp were captured which provided an opportunity to gain further knowledge about the life history of Grass Carp in the Lake Erie system. Grass Carp are one of the four species of Asian Carp identified in the Management and Control Plan for Bighead, Black, Grass, and Silver Carps in the United States, and feed primarily on aquatic vegetation. Grass Carp have been occasionally reported in Lake Erie since 1984, but a more concerted effort to understand frequency of occurrence, reproductive status, and the origin of these fish was initiated by agencies in western Lake Erie in 2010. Commercial anglers have been important partners in this effort. With continued collaboration, it is hoped that the Great Lakes ecosystem and its $7 billion sportfishing industry can be protected. Primary funding support for this exercise was provided through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.