St. Joseph, Kalamazoo rivers test clean for invasive silver, bighead carp (video)

The Michigan DNR today (Friday, June 30) 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.

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.

“Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness week is July 2-8,” said Popoff. “This is an appropriate time to remind everyone out on the water to keep an eye out for unusual fish and report potential invasive carp sightings to www.michigan.gov/invasivecarp.”

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