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Lydia Lohrer’s Dec. 18 column, “Searching for truth about Asian Carp in the Great Lakes ,” caused needless confusion regarding grass carp research in Lake Erie.
While focusing on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the column fails to note that our agency works in cooperation with the Ohio DNR and at the request of the Lake Erie Committee, a collaborative group of fisheries managers from Ontario, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, to obtain critical information about grass carp behaviors including spawning and habitat use.
Understanding the behaviors of sterile and fertile grass carp is essential to determining where they might be located in the expansive 9,940 square miles of Lake Erie or the basin’s thousands of tributary miles. With a loosely estimated 35,000 grass carp possibly in the basin, locating these fish is like finding needles in a haystack. The 32 fish currently equipped with radio telemetry — representing less than 0.1% of the estimated population — act as beacons to locate other spawning and feeding grass carp populations. The goal of this work — oddly neglected in Lohrer’s column — is to target and remove grass carp from the lake.
The DNR is taking a similarly collaborative approach to assure bighead, silver and black carp stay out of the Great Lakes. The Michigan DNR has worked with the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee — representing 36 states, federal and Canadian partners — since its inception in 2010 to respond to this threat with the latest science and technology.
Particularly puzzling was Lohrer’s implication that news about invasive carp is being hidden. The Michigan DNR regularly issues news releases on the subject. Since 2014, the DNR has released 13 different public communications on invasive carp and Michigan’s activity related to them, the most recent just three days before Lohrer’s column ran. Many newspapers have reported on grass carp in Lake Erie.
Complicating matters is the column’s use, at times, of the blanket term “Asian carp” to describe four invasive carp species — silver, bighead, grass and black — each posing a distinct threat to the Great Lakes. The grass-eating invaders found in Lake Erie are damaging to ecosystems, and Michigan has prohibited their stocking for nearly 50 years, the earliest Great Lakes state or Canadian province to do so. Nevertheless, silver carp in the Chicago Area Waterways System near Lake Michigan are much more threatening to our $7-billion fishing and boating economy. So even as the Michigan DNR assists Ohio in fighting grass carp in Lake Erie, we will continue to collaborate with all state and federal partners to keep silver and bighead carp out of our Great Lakes.
Fisheries chief, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
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