WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar pushed to improve environmental testing methods to help fight the spread of Asian carp. In a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, Klobuchar urged the Army Corps of Engineers to advance a study that would help to more accurately detect the presence of Asian carp in Minnesota’s waterways. Recent testing showed possible traces of Asian carp DNA in the Great Lakes. The letter calls on the Corps to advance their study to improve environmental DNA (eDNA) testing.
“Asian carp not only pose a serious threat to Minnesota’s environment, they also threaten the recreation and fishing industries that play a key role in our state’s economy,” Klobuchar said.“We need to do everything we can to stop the further spread of this invasive species into our lakes and rivers and improving the tests that help us to detect the presence of Asian carp is a critical step to protect Minnesota’s waterways.”
Klobuchar has been a leader in helping to fight the spread of Asian carp. She’s introduced bipartisan legislation, The Upper Mississippi Conservation and River Protection Act (Upper Mississippi CARP Act),to kick-start the process to consider closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock as well as require immediate closure if Asian carp are found. In addition, the bill would direct federal agencies to partner with the State of Minnesota on efforts to root out infestations and prevent the spread of Asian carp in the state’s rivers.She also worked to pass the Stop Invasive Species Act, which requires an expedited plan to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through a number of rivers and tributaries across the Great Lakes region.
Last year, Klobuchar toured the University of Minnesota St. Anthony Falls Laboratory to highlight new efforts to fight the spread of Asian carp. She has also been working to target resources toward upgrading the Coon Rapids Dam – an effective barrier for preventing the spread of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi River watershed. In 2011, she attended Governor Mark Dayton’s Asian Carp Summit to stress the need for state officials to formalize an Asian carp action plan and urge bipartisan support to halt the species.
The full text of the letter is below:
The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0108
Dear Secretary Darcy:
On April 4, findings from a study on the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for detecting Asian carp were published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. The researchers found that “the most parsimonious and plausible explanation of the geographical distribution of the positive [eDNA] detections reported here is that the presence of eDNA most often indicates the presence of live Asian carp.” This finding is concerning because 58 positive eDNA detections reported by the Corps of Engineers have been found above the electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, and 6 positive detections have been found in Lake Erie.
While the researchers also found that if live Asian carp are present in the Great Lakes, they are likely at low numbers and are unlikely to have established a self-sustaining population, this finding does not diminish the concerning verdict that live Asian carp may well be present in the Great Lakes.
We understand the Corps does not agree with all of the findings in this report, in particular that the positive eDNA results are likely not indicating the presence of live Asian carp since the intensive fishing and netting efforts have not recently uncovered any live Asian carp. Even though the extensive monitoring has not recently uncovered any Asian carp above the barrier, the results are still troubling because they could in fact indicate the presence of live fish.
We are aware the Corps is studying ways to improve eDNA testing and to develop a probabilistic model to predict the most likely origin of the eDNA (i.e., whether it comes from a live carp or through secondary channels). The Corps has reported that this study is expected to be completed in September 2014. Understanding the origin of the eDNA is truly vital, and we urge you to accelerate this study.
Thank you for your attention to our concerns.