Lake Michigan Action on Invasive Fish
CHICAGO, IL – ENVIRONMENT – Crews from natural resources agencies and organizations in the Great Lakes region are teaming up to coordinate an invasive fish surveillance exercise in Calumet Harbor and near-shore Illinois and Indiana waters of Lake Michigan.
The exercise – including intensive netting and electro-fishing – will be the first of its kind utilizing provisions of the new Mutual Aid Agreement for Combating Aquatic Invasive Species, signed at the Council of Great Lakes Governors meeting on April 26 in Chicago.
“Illinois and our partner Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces – working with federal agencies, local officials, and others interested in protecting the Great Lakes – are committed to controlling the spread of aquatic invaders like Asian carp and Eurasian ruffe,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller. “The new Mutual Aid Agreement allows us to draw on the resources and good will of all of our partners, and this exercise will provide us a real-time test of our response to aquatic invasive species in and near Lake Michigan.”
“Indiana is proud to join Illinois in this effort. It is imperative we work together to assess invasive threats to Lake Michigan and the impact it will have on the entire Great Lakes basin. All the Great Lakes states need to continue to work together to prevent invasive species from being introduced into our waters,” said Indiana Department of Natural Resources Director Cameron F. Clark.
Crews coordinated by the Illinois and Indiana Departments of Natural Resources are deploying boats on Chicago’s Calumet Harbor, and on adjoining waters of Lake Michigan on both sides of the Illinois-Indiana state line, for electro-fishing and netting to determine whether invasive Eurasian ruffe are present.
“Aquatic invasive threats know no national or state boundaries. Our ability to sample fish communities, respond quickly, and effectively communicate on efforts could be critical in the future to respond to a threat within the Great Lakes basin,” said Indiana DNR Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator Eric Fischer.
Eurasian ruffe, an eastern European species of fish, have been found in Lake Superior since the mid-1980s, have a similar diet and feeding habits of native fish, and could present problems for the food web in Lake Michigan. Researchers detected environmental DNA of Eurasian ruffe in Calumet Harbor last year.
“We use eDNA as an ‘early warning system’. While our annual surveys and local fishers have never seen Eurasian ruffe in Illinois waters, this exercise will help us know more about the presence and certainly build upon collaboration with our valuable partners on invasive species issues” said Kevin Irons, Aquatic Nuisance Species Program Manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources continues to ask anglers to be on the lookout for and help with reporting any findings in Illinois waters of Eurasian ruffe. To date no Eurasian ruffe has been found in Illinois waters.
Agencies and entities participating in the May 28 exercise will include Natural Resources Agencies of Illinois and Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, United States Geological Survey, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Illinois Natural History Survey and the Chicago Park District. To stop the movement of all aquatic nuisance species, sportsmen and women are reminded to ‘Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers’ and ‘Be a Hero – Transport Zero’ by following three simple steps: 1) Remove plants animals and mud from wading boots and equipment; 2) Drain all water from your boat and gear; and 3) Dry everything thoroughly with a towel.