The use of environmental DNA in invasive species surveillance of the Great Lakes commercial bait trade.Conserv Biol. 2015 Apr; 29(2):430-9.CB
Over 180 non-native species have been introduced in the Laurentian Great Lakes region, many posing threats to native species and ecosystem functioning. One potential pathway for introductions is the commercial bait trade; unknowing or unconcerned anglers commonly release unused bait into aquatic systems. Previous surveillance efforts of this pathway relied on visual inspection of bait stocks in retail shops, which can be time and cost prohibitive and requires a trained individual that can rapidly and accurately identify cryptic species. Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveillance, a molecular tool that has been used for surveillance in aquatic environments, can be used to efficiently detect species at low abundances. We collected and analyzed 576 eDNA samples from 525 retail bait shops throughout the Laurentian Great Lake states. We used eDNA techniques to screen samples for multiple aquatic invasive species (AIS) that could be transported in the bait trade, including bighead (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and silver carp (H. molitrix), round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), tubenose goby (Proterorhinus marmoratus), Eurasian rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus), and goldfish (Carassius auratus). Twenty-seven samples were positive for at least one target species (4.7% of samples), and all target species were found at least once, except bighead carp. Despite current regulations, the bait trade remains a potential pathway for invasive species introductions in the Great Lakes region. Alterations to existing management strategies regarding the collection, transportation, and use of live bait are warranted, including new and updated regulations, to prevent future introductions of invasive species in the Great Lakes via the bait trade.