In­va­sive grass carp in Lake Huron

The Goderich Signal-Star - - Front Page - KATH­LEEN SMITH Goderich Sig­nal Star

It has been less than a year since grass carp were found in Lake Erie. Grass carp have been found in un­known num­bers in Lake Huron. The feed­ing of the grass carp could rapidly wipe out all the plants in a wet­land, leav­ing noth­ing and de­stroy­ing ar­eas na­tive fish species use for spawn­ing.

Just less than a year ago re­searches had ev­i­dence that the in­va­sive grass carp were swim­ming and spawn­ing near the mouth of a river in Ohio that flows into Lake Erie. More re­cently 10 in­di­vid­u­als have now moved up­stream to Lake Huron.

An alert was is­sued call­ing for Ohio and US En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) to be­gin the grass carp erad­i­ca­tion mea­sures im­me­di­ately.

Grass carp are one of four Asian carp species threat­en­ing the Great Lakes. Orig­i­nally brought to the US more than 50 years ago to con­trol weed growth, these fish feed on aquatic plants, eat­ing up to 90 pounds a day, dam­ag­ing ar­eas used for spawn­ing or by mi­grat­ing birds.

The vo­ra­cious feed­ing of the grass carp could rapidly wipe out all the plants in a wet­land, leav­ing noth­ing and de­stroy­ing ar­eas na­tive fish species feel pro­tected. The Ge­or­gian Bay Great Lakes Foun­da­tion (GBGLF) Chair Mary Muter re­turned from an an­nual con­fer­ence of In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Great Lakes Re­searchers (IAGLR) with dis­turb­ing news: “These fish are very hard to catch be­cause they elude tra­di­tional fish­ing nets. If 10 have been found in Lake Huron, there are likely more present.”

In fur­ther dis­turb­ing news, a 2017 bi-na­tional risk as­sess­ment by Fish­eries and Oceans Canada and the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey de­ter­mined the in­va­sion into Lake Huron would oc­cur within the next 10 years.

Ad­di­tion­ally, if the ar­rival of the grass carp species into Lake Huron oc­curred sooner, the greater the risk of da­m­age.

It has been less than a year since grass carp were found in Lake Erie and even less since the risk as­sess­ment, and al­ready grass carp have been found in un­known num­bers in Lake Huron.

Ac­cord­ing to Muter, Ohio of­fi­cials have plans to con­tinue to catch these large fish, in­sert track­ing de­vices, re­lease them live and study their move­ments. This plan should pro­vide in­sight to de­vise a pos­si­ble man­age­ment tech­nique to ‘con­trol’ the pop­u­la­tion. “With both Ohio and Michi­gan not plan­ning to erad­i­cate the grass carp, this wet­lands de­stroyer is on the verge of be­com­ing es­tab­lished in the Great Lakes. To stop this in­va­sion, it is ur­gent to im­ple­ment ev­ery pos­si­ble erad­i­ca­tion method now,” Muter adds. As Canada spends up to $20 mil­lion to prevent grass carp from in­vad­ing into Cana­dian Great Lake wa­ters, it is un­ac­cept­able that agen­cies in the US con­duct “re­search projects”, rather than be­gin­ning erad­i­ca­tion meth­ods. The fu­ture of the Cana­dian Great Lakes ecosys­tems are put at risk.

The large fish are sel­dom found in the deeper wa­ters, but rather along the shore­lines where there are wet­lands, for them to feed off of plants. The grass carp could even­tu­ally de­stroy wet­lands for the na­tive fish that are be­ing sold by com­mer­cial fish­ers such as wall­eye/ pick­erel and white­fish.

“An as­sess­ment car­ried out in 2017 found up to 1.2 mil­lion acres of wet­lands in­clud­ing sub­merged aquatic plants in the five Great Lakes,” Muter says.

“Each acre of wet­land pro­vides $1,500 an­nu­ally in eco­log­i­cal ser­vices. If all the Great Lakes are in­vaded by grass carp, the cost of the loss of these eco­log­i­cal ser­vices could mount to $16.5 Bil­lion per year. Can we af­ford to let this hap­pen?”

FILE PHOTO

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