Federal wildlife officers set up their portable lab at the Odawa/Battle Point Launch in Grand Haven Township on Wednesday. They took their boat out on the Grand River, where they took a variety of water samples.
“It’s part of an aquatic invasive species monitoring program," explained fish biologist Tim Strakosh. "It’s multi-tiered and it is going to be basin-wide. I am helping to cover Lake Michigan.”
Strakosh said they were obtaining samples to test for "environmental DNA."
"We just want to get some baseline data," he added.
The monitoring program will be ramping up over the next few years to see what rivers might provide habitat for Asian carp.
“There has been no indication that there’s Asian carp in Lake Michigan at all,” Strakosh said. “It’s proactive, establishing baseline data, and starting up this long-term invasive species monitoring program.”
Due to their size, appetite and rate of reproduction, Asian carp pose a threat to the Great Lakes. They are known to consume large quantities of phytoplankton and compete with native fish for habitat.
“There’s been past monitoring both by the (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) and the University of Notre Dame, in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in the St. Joseph and Kalamazoo rivers,” Strakosh said.
He said the monitoring program has been expanded to include more areas.
“We are going to be resampling the St. Joe and Kalamazoo, plus the Muskegon and Grand today,” Strakosh said Wednesday. “This is one of the first year’s we’re spearheading the whole effort, working together with our partners.”
Strakosh said locations were selected in a meeting with representatives from surrounding Great Lakes states.
“We prioritized the rivers that might be at highest risk if there are Asian carp in the area, and then we ranked those,” he said. “So, we’re going down a list of rivers most likely — if the Asian carp are here — that they’d be present.”
To help identify where the Asian carp might choose to live, the team of wildlife experts collected about 75 samples over an eight-mile stretch of the river in the Grand Haven area. They took another 25 samples from the river near Grand Rapids.
”We’re looking for areas if — big if — Asian carp were in this river, where they might be,” Strakosh said. “They really like turbid, fast-flowing waters with adjacent velocity breaks, so we’re looking for those areas.”
Strakosh noted that testing will likely be an annual process in order to keep ahead of the spread of invasive species.