Concern over Asian carp rightly serious

Steve PollickNo boaters have been knocked simple by running into a leaping silver carp while motoring on Sandusky Bay or the Sandusky River – yet. Ditto for Maumee Bay and connecting waters.
But evidence continues to mount that something is afoot in the trouble department when it comes to a dreaded invasion of fisheries-wrecking Asian carp, especially the bighead and silver varieties.

Just out is news that traces of environmental DNA, or eDNA, from Asian silver carp were found in 20 of 150 recent samples of Sandusky Bay waters. That is ominous, a substantially higher percentage than a year ago, when just 6 of 417 samples from both bays tested positive for the carp. The eDNA test is said to be a tool for the early detection of Asian carp at low densities.

State and federal fisheries authorities doing the testing state that “these latest positive results heighten concern about the presence of Asian carp in western Lake Erie. However, the analysis cannot provide or confirm information about the number or size of possible fish.” Uh huh.

Our stalwart Great Lakes fisheries defenders further note that eDNA evidence cannot verify whether live Asian carp are present, whether the DNA may have come from a dead fish, or whether water containing Asian carp DNA may have been transported from other sources such as bilge water, storm sewers, or fish-eating birds. Uh huh.

The big fear here is that science will be well behind the curve in addressing this crisis. Sort of like the weatherman who is 100 percent accurate in describing yesterday’s tornado.

The Blade of Toledo rightly underscores the seriousness of the situation in a recent editorial, thumping the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its bureaucratic slow-walk so far: “The corps seems to have become so numb to the crisis that it isn't clear whether it will move any faster if samples drawn from the Maumee River and parts of western Lake Erie near Toledo come back positive when laboratory results arrive this month. That area is even a better spawning habitat than Sandusky Bay.”

Notes the newspaper’s editorial later: “But the latest discovery suggests that previous identifications of bighead carp DNA in Sandusky Bay and silver carp DNA in North Maumee Bay were not flukes.” Uh huh.

Even officialdom has raised its eyebrows:

“The breadth of positive samples from the Sandusky Bay area was not expected,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Chief Jim Dexter. “We need to understand the source of the eDNA in order to address it and keep silver and bighead carp from establishing a viable population in the Great Lakes.” Uh huh.

Just like we understand pretty well how other invasive species have forever changed the ecosystems of the Great Lakes, especially with zebra and quagga mussel infestations in fish-productive Lake Erie – 25 years too late.

Categories: Ohio – Steve Pollick

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