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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 29, 2013
Contact: Nick Popoff, 517-373-1280 or Ed Golder, 517-335-3014
Federal report confirms naturally reproducing grass carp found in Lake Erie
In the past three years the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has received increased reports of grass carp being captured in Lake Erie by commercial fishermen. These fishermen have also reported seeing more of this species, as well as specimens of varying age and size indicating there may be a naturally reproducing population in the lake. This assumption has been confirmed by a recently released U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report.
USGS has determined grass carp, a species of Asian carp, are naturally reproducing within the Lake Erie basin. Grass carp do not present the same ecological risk to Michigan’s waters as bighead carp or silver carp, although they are a species of concern because they feed on aquatic plants and can significantly alter habitat required by native fish. Grass carp have occasionally been found in Michigan waters since the late 1970s.
Grass carp captured in Michigan’s waters of the Great Lakes were thought to be the result of fish movements from other states where stocking genetically altered (triploid) fish for aquatic vegetation control is allowed. Triploid fish are sterilized through a heat-treating process when their eggs are developing. Several Great Lakes states allow the stocking of triploid fish because they believe the fish have a low probability of reproduction, although the sterilization process may not be 100-percent effective.
Given their potential for negatively affecting fish habitat, the state of Michigan has prohibited live possession of grass carp since the 1980s and continues to oppose their use in public or private waters in other states with connections to the Great Lakes.
In Michigan, the DNR is working this emerging grass carp issue on three fronts, including law enforcement, research and education.
DNR conservation officers inspect wholesale fish and bait dealers throughout the year to make sure live grass carp are not being imported into Michigan and have worked with the Michigan State Police’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division to train staff to inspect live fish trucks at weigh stations or during routine stops on Michigan’s interstate highways.
The DNR Fisheries Division performs fishery surveys throughout the state, actively looking for these fish. Grass carp that are found during survey work are euthanized and dissected to determine reproductive development. Fish that appear to be fertile are analyzed to determine whether they are diploid (fertile) or triploid (infertile). Fisheries Division has also been actively working with state commercial anglers in Lake Erie to remove and report any grass carp they capture in their nets.
The DNR has developed an Asian carp educational brochure and an Asian Carp Management Plan, and distributed multiple press releases specific to grass carp over the years. A portion of the state’s Asian carp website is also dedicated to the grass carp issue and can be found by visiting www.michigan.gov/asiancarp.
This issue affects the Great Lakes, not just Michigan. The DNR is actively involved with the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ARCC), which has representation from agencies across all of the Great Lakes states, the federal government and local communities. The ARCC’s goal is to implement a sustainable Asian carp control program and to prevent the introduction of Asian carp.