Well, some good news and some bad from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Mostly bad, however.
First, the DNR announced the addition of seven species to Michigan’s prohibited species list of aquatic invasive species. An additional species already on the list was also modified from a prohibited species to a restricted species.
Any species considered for listing as prohibited or restricted must be not native to Michigan. Prohibited species generally are not present or are in very limited areas, whereas restricted species are generally widespread and naturalized within the state.
The decision came during the Nov. 6 meeting of the Natural Resources Commission, where DNR Director Keith Creagh signed Invasive Species Order Amendment No. 1 of 2014.
Prior to this order there were 33 aquatic species listed as prohibited or restricted. The following species were added to the prohibited species list:
• Stone moroko – Part of the minnow family, not a description of something “on something.” This species is a known carrier of a parasite that can negatively impact other fishes.
• Zander – Think Russian or east European import. This is close relative of the walleye, which could compete with the native fish or reproduce with it and create a hybrid.
• Wels catfish – Yet another river monster from eastern Europe. This fish is considered a serious danger to native fish populations and can grow into the hundreds of pounds
• Killer shrimp – As opposed to killer tomatoes? This is far scarier. It is an aggressive predator and could severely threaten the trophic levels of the Great Lakes by preying on a range of invertebrates.
• Yabby – Definitely not one to say Yabba Dabba Do over. This large crayfish from Australia would negatively impact other crayfish species.
• Golden mussel – Just what we need, another mussel, this one from China. Similar to those already firmly established invaders, the zebra and quagga mussels, this species has destructive qualities that would threaten native biodiversity.
• Red swamp crayfish – This species, at least is from the U.S., Louisiana to be specific. It can quickly dominate waterbodies and is virtually impossible to eradicate.
Additionally, rusty crayfish were moved from prohibited to restricted classification to allow for their limited possession for the purpose of destroying them for consumption, fertilizer or trash. This species already is widespread throughout the state, yet regulations previously didn’t allow for the collection of them for consumptive purposes.
“Crayfish trapping is a growing activity in Michigan and allowing our anglers to enjoy some tablefare while assisting to remove an invasive species is a win/win,” said Nick Popoff, Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs manager for the DNR.
This order comes following a meeting of the governors of each of the Great Lakes states committing to blocking the spread of 16 “least wanted” aquatic invasive species through prohibitions and restrictions. Nine of the 16 already were prohibited in Michigan under the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act; six more were designated as prohibited with the signing of this order. The remaining “least wanted” aquatic invasive species is a plant. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has authority over plants and is expected to add water soldier as a prohibited species through the Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development in January.
For more information on Michigan’s fight against aquatic invasive species, visit www.michigan.gov/invasivespecies. Information about these additional species can be found in the order and will be posted on the DNR’s invasive species webpage this week.
In somewhat better news, DNR recently announced that the latest round of Asian carp environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling on the lower Kalamazoo River in Allegan County produced all negative results.
Earlier this month the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a single positive eDNA result for silver carp – a species of Asian carp – within the river, discovered during water sampling efforts conducted this summer.
Immediately after the DNR learned of the positive sample, the agency worked with USFWS to conduct this third eDNA surveillance effort. The two agencies collected 200 additional water samples on the lower Kalamazoo River Oct. 7 and 8. In addition to sampling, the DNR increased the presence of staff along the river to enlist anglers as part of surveillance efforts.
The previous positive result indicated the presence of genetic material of silver carp, such as scales, excrement or mucous. However, there is no evidence a population of silver carp is established in the Kalamazoo River. In addition to live fish, genetic material can enter water bodies via boats, fishing gear and the droppings of fish-eating birds.
“We greatly appreciate the quick work by USFWS to collect and evaluate these latest samples,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “We are pleased these samples were negative, but that doesn’t mean our efforts to keep Asian carp out of Michigan’s waters are over.”
The DNR will continue to take action in response to the previous positive result. Those actions will include:
• Conducting additional sampling efforts in the spring with USFWS to continue monitoring the river.
• Enhancing DNR fishery survey efforts, including expanding our outreach to anglers.
• Continuing public education efforts about all aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp, to increase general understanding of this significant threat to Michigan’s waterways.
Anglers and boaters are a first line of defense in the fight against aquatic invasive species. Anglers are urged to become familiar with the identification of Asian carp, including adults and juveniles, as the spread of juvenile Asian carp through the use of live bait buckets has been identified as a potential point of entry into Great Lakes waters. Anglers and boaters are strongly encouraged to drain all water from their boats and to clean boats and gear after each trip. Invasive species and eDNA are known to “hitchhike” within live wells and attach to boat trails, anchors and fishing gear.
For even more information on Asian carp, visit www.michigan.gov/asiancarp.
Now, about those cougars. The DNR today confirmed two more sightings of cougars, confirmed on trail cameras. Both were in the far eastern Upper Peninsula, enough distance from previous sightings for the DNR to say that this is firm evidence of cougars expanding their territory, they say from the Dakotas.
The sightings came from Chippewa County south of Sault Ste. Marie, and in Mackinac County. That’s close to St. Ignace. Whether they were expanding their territories, or were here all along, is left to you to speculate on.