Michigan record battling invasives leaves much to be desired, DNR chief said

MARQUETTE – Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh said more has to be done to fight the threat of invasive species, which have increasingly wreaked havoc on the lands and waters of the state for decades.

“I think we can do a better job and refine our focus on invasive species, whether they’re terrestrial or aquatic,” Creagh said.

As an example of an exotic threat, Creagh mentioned the advance of silver (Asian) carp and the state of Ohio recently detecting environmental DNA present for the species. The carp have made their way north from through the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

If the carp reach the Great Lakes, their impact is not fully known, but there are fears for the $7 billion fishing industry and the $16 billion recreational boating industry. The Asian carp have no natural predators and can out-compete native fish species.

One of the fish was caught six miles from Lake Michigan, past an electronic barrier erected to keep the carp from the Great Lakes.

“We need to do a better job on our risk assessments, we need to do a better job on our pathways and we need to do a better job on education,” Creagh said. “Then we need to do a better job on our management once it’s detected. It’s very complex. Very robust science is needed. We can use some technology advances on how do you detect, contain and eradicate invasive species, because our track record is very poor over the decades.”

Creagh illustrated his point by providing several examples of invasive species that have impacted Michigan over the years.

“If you look at, whether it was chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, emerald ash borer, hemlock wooly adelgid, sudden oak death, in our forest species, it’s challenged, if you look at giant hogweed, garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, Eurasian milfoil, phragmites, we need to pay attention as a society and as natural resources managers of the impact that has on the ecosystem,” Creagh said.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.