Asian Carp eDNA found in Ohio River

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State officials from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources have confirmed that environmental DNA from the invasive Asian silver carp has been found in two water samples collected from the Ohio River.

200 water samples

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tested 200 water samples collected from the upper Ohio River between Wheeling, W.Va., and Pittsburgh, Pa. Oct. 21-22. The tests found eDNA in one Pennsylvania sample taken from the Ohio River in Aliquippa, Beaver County, about six miles upstream of the confluence with the Beaver River. A second positive eDNA result was found in a West Virginia sample near Chester in Hancock County. None of the samples tested positive for bighead carp.

Tool for detection

Researchers use eDNA analysis as a tool for the early detection of Asian carp, which include silver and bighead carp. The findings indicate the presence of genetic material left behind by the species, such as scales, excrement or mucous. But eDNA does not provide physical proof of the presence of live or dead Asian carp.

“Unfortunately, the test results provide some evidence that this invasive species could be in the upper Ohio River in Pennsylvania,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway.

“This is an early warning sign, since we don’t know for certain the origin of the genetic material. We don’t know if the eDNA came from live or dead fish or if it was transported from other sources, like bilge water or storm sewers, or even waterfowl visiting the basin.”

“The states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia have been cooperatively working over the last two years to address Asian carp upstream migrations in the Ohio River,” added Curtis Taylor, Chief of the West Virginia Wildlife Resources Section. “These efforts have focused on fishing down these species at the population’s leading edge by using contracted commercial fishermen. The main reach of this effort has centered in the Meldahl and Greenup navigation pools that span the river between Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.” This cooperative effort will continue in 2014.

Ecosystem threats

Asian carp are a significant threat to aquatic ecosystems because of their voracious appetite and ability to quickly reproduce. Once in a waterway, they devour much of the microscopic algae and animals that other species rely on for food, effectively decimating other species. This, in turn, can harm local economies which rely on the revenue generated from sport fishing and boating.

Destructive species

Because of the destructive nature of the Asian carp species, officials urge anglers and boaters to help slow the spread. Anglers and boaters should thoroughly clean gear and boats before entering new waters and learn how to identify Asian carp. A video teaching people how to identify bighead and silver carp is available from the USFWS on YouTube at http://youtu.be/B49OWrCRs38.

Anglers and boaters are urged to contact the PFBC or WVDNR if they suspect the presence of Asian carp. Both agencies maintain a website for easy communication: PFBC – http://fishandboat.com/ais.htm and WVDNR – www.wvdnr.gov/fishing/asian–carp.shtm.

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