They don’t wear capes or leap tall buildings, but there’s a team of people doing some superhero-level invasive species work. This summer, they’re taking the fight to grass carp in Lake Erie.
Since 2014, the Michigan and Ohio departments of Natural Resources have partnered to address grass carp in western Lake Erie. Last year, with support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Michigan DNR launched a Grass Carp Response Team to tackle response actions in this area.
“Response and monitoring efforts are ongoing and involve several state and federal agencies, as well as universities,” said John Buszkiewicz, a Michigan fisheries biologist on the response team. “We are collaborating on telemetry studies to track the movement of ‘Judas fish’ – grass carp fitted with transmitters and returned to the water.”
Members of the Grass Carp Response Team have been surveying several Lake Erie bays and river mouths this summer, attempting to capture fish to install transmitters in and then track their future movements.
Grass carp have been captured in western Lake Erie since the 1980s, likely after escaping private ponds where they were stocked to control aquatic weeds. Though the practice previously was legal in most Great Lakes states except Michigan, today, all Great Lakes states and provinces prohibit the possession of live, fertile grass carp – with some states, including Michigan, prohibiting sterile grass carp, too.
Despite regulations, fertile grass carp still are being caught in Michigan and Ohio waters.
Invasive carp pose a serious threat to Great Lakes region’s ecology, economy and quality of life. Of the four invasive carp species in the U.S. – bighead, silver, black and grass carp – only grass carp are known to inhabit the Great Lakes.
An impressive network of real-time receivers installed across portions of western Lake Erie allows the Grass Carp Response Team to follow the fish and understand when they are grouping for spawning or feeding. “This allows for rapid response because the team can quickly mobilize to electrofish and net to remove grass carp,” said Buszkiewicz.
Ongoing monitoring (including reports from bowfishers, commercial fishing operations and a tagging study) helps the team target locations for routine electrofishing and netting surveys.