Columbus — Despite intense, ongoing search efforts, fisheries survey crews have not yet turned up any Asian carp species from Lake Erie.
That’s the latest report from Rich Carter, the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife’s fisheries program administrator.
In cooperation with the Division of Wildlife, a fisheries crew from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is continuing environmental DNA sampling of Lake Erie for bighead and silver carp.
“They’re working in the Maumee River area, the Sandusky River area, and other tributaries on Ohio’s more eastern shore of Lake Erie,” Carter said.
“The results have shown no positive eDNA detections in 2013, 2014, and 2015,” he said.
Results from Lake Erie in 2012 stirred up a bit of a scare when some eDNA samples were positive for Asian carp, but there have been no more positives in subsequent years.
“We have not seen live fish in any of the extensive sampling that is done annually on the lake,” Carter said.
“We need to continue to be vigilant with respect to looking for Asian carp in Lake Erie,” he said. “We’ll continue environmental DNA testing as well as our normal testing throughout the system.”
Testing for eDNA will continue on Lake Erie into the “foreseeable future,” Carter said. There is no timetable on when it might cease, he said.
Sampling for bighead and silver carp eDNA has also been performed by the USFWS on the Ohio River.
“They have also sampled extensively in the Muskingum River and the upper pools of the Ohio River,” Carter said. “Last year’s results from the Muskingum River were all negative. There were a handful of positives for both bighead and silver carp in the Montgomery Island (Ohio River) pool.”
The Montgomery Island pool is just across the Ohio border into Pennsylvania.
There was one positive eDNA sample for silver carp and two positives for bighead carp in the New Cumberland pool, which is near East Liverpool, Ohio.
USFWS collected 91 samples out of the New Cumberland pool last year and 91 samples from the Montgomery Island pool. Also, there were no positive samples collected from the area around Pittsburgh.
“The results from the Muskingum River are encouraging as we had a positive eDNA detection there in 2013,” Carter said. “The important thing with using eDNA is that you look for repeated positives over time and not rely on one positive (in one year). What you want to do is repeat sampling over time to look for patterns that might indicate live fish.”
Last year’s sampling efforts on the Ohio River were in the upper pools as sampling in 2013 focused more on the southern river pools, Carter said.
The USFWS is providing funding for additional activities for Asian carp in the upper Ohio River, said Carter.
“This funding will allow the continuation of the radio telemetry study of Asian carp in the Ohio River basin, which is providing some keen insights on where these fish are living,” he said.
In order to learn about the habits of bighead and silver carp, the USFWS has been radio tagging fish since 2012.
“This will allow us to make informed decisions with respect to any future potential attempt to control populations,” Carter said.
Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky fisheries resources have been utilized in the tagging study.
“There will likely be some targeted removal efforts done in conjunction with our partner states,” Carter said. “There has been a series of draft plans that have been circulated and developed about what activities will be conducted in the future.”
There will also be some more sampling, Carter said, to determine the physical range of the Ohio River population of fish.
“The Asian carp issue is still front and center for us at the Department of Natural Resources,” he said.
“… We’re in the prevention mode in Ohio,” Carter continued. “We don’t want them moving from the Ohio River basin to the Lake Erie basin.”