Great Lakes Most Unwanted:
Alpena FWCO Searches for New Invasive Species
BY ERIC STADIG, ALPENA FWCO-WATERFORD MICHIGAN SUBSTATION
“184 Non-Native Species Established in the Great Lakes!” That headline is from the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System (GLANSIS) and highlights a growing issue within our Great Lakes. Fish biologists from the Alpena Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) are working to prevent the next aquatic invader from becoming established. Through paired-fyke netting, electrofishing, and trawling, crews have covered areas from the St. Marys River to the western basin of Lake Erie searching for nonnative juvenile or adult fishes. These efforts represent one of four portions of the Service’s large-scale early detection monitoring program for aquatic invasive species using both traditional and non-traditional sampling gears in the Great Lakes.
Why have early detection monitoring programs? If scientists can find new, nonnative species while they are still rare, then they might be able to stop them before they reproduce enough to become invasive. The prevention starts with the identification of the species both native and non-native. During this year’s research trips, over 150 samples have been collected to find as many species as possible. Through these traditional sampling efforts, the fish biologists have identified nearly 50,000 fishes. Species ranged from native bowfin, walleye and emerald shiner to established invasives, such as, round goby.
Along with visual identification of each species, fin clips (pectoral, pelvic, adipose or caudal fin) from a subset of each species were collected before releasing the fish in the field. This method allows genetic confirmation for species identifications. These samples will be analyzed in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Exposure Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio, using genetic barcoding. Genetic barcoding is particularly useful for early detection of aquatic invasive species, as results are automatically cross-checked against a global database of genetic codes for many species. This technique is also principally advantageous in the identification of a species that share very similar morphological traits with native species (i.e. European perch). Currently, Alpena FWCO fish biologists are wrapping up their sampling season with collections on Sandusky Bay in Lake Erie.