Sea Lion

A discussion worth having. Gene Editing

22 posts in this topic

Wouldn't it be nice to rid the Great Lakes of exotics like zebra mussels. There appears to be promising new scientific methods that could do just that.... Called gene editing but it's not without risk.

http://mncf.org/blog/gene-editing-technology-may-control-invasive-species-but-can-we-master-the-monster-dr-frankenstein/

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This sounds like a good idea to me. The risk would be worth it IMO. The responsibility is up to the shipping companies to dump ballast water.

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It sounds very good. Specially the efforts being made to prevent unintended side effects. Maybe some experiments can be done in a few lakes that are not connected to any other lakes,so the experiment is insulated and can be controlled.

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This is not new technology and is nowhere near as effective as advertised the concept seems good but the practical applications have not been realized getting a new gene into an entire population has never been realistic especially a gene that makes them less fit in any way this is a potential management tool but not a final solution an engineered virus is a better erradication tool but with its own risks

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With all the technology today, why couldn't they make a mock scenario, with most species in it and study that situation for a few years. Like what Cabelas has in their fish tank but on a much bigger scale, add those shytin clams and see what happens. I'm no biologist but what happens if other species eat these things, nothing? Because its genetically altering just the mussels? Man has screwed up more things on planet earth than one can possible imagine!! I say approach with caution before screwing something else up!! Now your messing around with your upper beliefs, what ever your choice may be.

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I'm with Pap and I do this stuff for a living. The laws of unintended consequences catch up to you eventually. It's one thing to add a gene that makes your stones glow green (which we can do easily), but it's another thing entirely to add something that's intended to reduce fitness, reproductive or otherwise. There's this thing called horizontal gene transfer where you get stuff jumping between species. No matter how much we think we understand something, take the worse case scenario and amplify it ten-fold, then add another two-fold for good measure, and you'll be close to what might happen. Michael Crichton said it best, "Nature finds a way".

 

Frankly, our ability to do has exceeded our ability to conceive of the consequences. Take a look at something called CRISPR/Cas9, which allows custom gene modification. Unlike marriage, gene editing is forever...happy trails, future generations!

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I agree with pap. This is very new knowledge and there may be elements of this knowledge that are yet to be known or discovered. I think I read somewhere that there are even smaller parts of DNA that are involved with triggering reactions in genes (turning them on and off) that are present but may be currently dormant. It may be that these other parts can also be triggered by external stimuli. Messing with this stuff may produce extraordinary advances but also may have the potential of causing undesirable or unforeseen future changes with global implications. In actuality this is like messing with evolution. So we must be very careful with this science.

 

Also, there can be unknown reactions within an ecosystem if an invasive such as the zebra mussels are eliminated. It could cause unanticipated events such as other aquatic species to flourish, change/adapt or die off.

 

There is also research being done in the medical field in regard to using CRISPR to alter human genetics for multiple reason such as creating more desirable genetic traits and fighting genetic related diseases including cancer. But they must be very careful.

 

The earth is a dynamic environment that is constantly changing and evolving in many ways. Some changes may be good and some may be bad, depending on perspective.

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The Chinese government has been doing exactly this idea ,with mosquitoes. Every few weeks they release several millions of genetically altered  mosquitoes  in order to fight ZIKA in their areas.They are actively mating but sterile. So far this is very successful and far less dangerous for the environment than chemical spraying.

Edited by rolmops

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I agree with gator on this issue.... Incredible knowledge..... But so is nuclear warfare. Very effective weapons system but consequences are not ideal. Probably worth studying this advancement more. Nature is pretty incredible without human intervention. As a species we mostly harm the environment.

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After they figure that out it would be nice to rid us of the emerald ash borer.  I doubt either...

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Gene editing isn't something that should be taken lightly. It can have severe environmental consequences that may well not be worth the risk. Once something like this is started, it's virtually impossible to stop as well. In my opinion, the best thing to do would be to do what we can with the situation that we have concerning invasives. Zebra mussels are taking many of the nutrients out of the water in the Great Lakes, yet, many of those nutrients aren't supposed to be there in the first place and are being dumped, seeped, etc. in by human activity. Studies have shown that species more adaptable to Oligotrophic environments are adapting quite well to the presence of zebra mussels, like Lake Trout, Atlantic Salmon, Steelhead, Burbot, and to a degree, Brown Trout. Certain native species are also predating heavily on them such as Lake Sturgeon, Drum, Redhorse, and other Sucker species. As far as having enough nutrients to support a large forage base, Alewives aren't going to make it much longer, plain and simple. Nor should they, they're an extremely unhealthy non-native forage species that we have the capability and the natural order of the Great Lakes system has even been trying to eradicate for the past several years, just take a look at Lakes Huron and Superior, both of which no longer have any considerable sized population of Alewives yet both are more and more supporting healthy communities of many native species as well as introduced, adaptable species like Steelhead, Atlantic Salmon, and Pink Salmon. I could go in to much greater detail about this, but for now, I'll leave it at this.

Edited by Char_Master

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Gene editing isn't something that should be taken lightly. It can have severe environmental consequences that may well not be worth the risk. Once something like this is started, it's virtually impossible to stop as well. In my opinion, the best thing to do would be to do what we can with the situation that we have concerning invasives. Zebra mussels are taking many of the nutrients out of the water in the Great Lakes, yet, many of those nutrients aren't supposed to be there in the first place and are being dumped, seeped, etc. in by human activity. Studies have shown that species more adaptable to Oligotrophic environments are adapting quite well to the presence of zebra mussels, like Lake Trout, Atlantic Salmon, Steelhead, Burbot, and to a degree, Brown Trout. Certain native species are also predating heavily on them such as Lake Sturgeon, Drum, Redhorse, and other Sucker species. As far as having enough nutrients to support a large forage base, Alewives aren't going to make it much longer, plain and simple. Nor should they, they're an extremely unhealthy non-native forage species that we have the capability and the natural order of the Great Lakes system has even been trying to eradicate for the past several years, just take a look at Lakes Huron and Superior, both of which no longer have any considerable sized population of Alewives yet both are more and more supporting healthy communities of many native species as well as introduced, adaptable species like Steelhead, Atlantic Salmon, and Pink Salmon. I could go in to much greater detail about this, but for now, I'll leave it at this.

It occurs to me that you are predicting the demise of the chinook.

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Gene editing isn't something that should be taken lightly. It can have severe environmental consequences that may well not be worth the risk. Once something like this is started, it's virtually impossible to stop as well. In my opinion, the best thing to do would be to do what we can with the situation that we have concerning invasives. Zebra mussels are taking many of the nutrients out of the water in the Great Lakes, yet, many of those nutrients aren't supposed to be there in the first place and are being dumped, seeped, etc. in by human activity. Studies have shown that species more adaptable to Oligotrophic environments are adapting quite well to the presence of zebra mussels, like Lake Trout, Atlantic Salmon, Steelhead, Burbot, and to a degree, Brown Trout. Certain native species are also predating heavily on them such as Lake Sturgeon, Drum, Redhorse, and other Sucker species. As far as having enough nutrients to support a large forage base, Alewives aren't going to make it much longer, plain and simple. Nor should they, they're an extremely unhealthy non-native forage species that we have the capability and the natural order of the Great Lakes system has even been trying to eradicate for the past several years, just take a look at Lakes Huron and Superior, both of which no longer have any considerable sized population of Alewives yet both are more and more supporting healthy communities of many native species as well as introduced, adaptable species like Steelhead, Atlantic Salmon, and Pink Salmon. I could go in to much greater detail about this, but for now, I'll leave it at this.

No I don't so. The zebras are trapping a large portion of nutrients that could be (and was in the past) available to game fish higher on the food chain. Pretty much everything did better before the zebra mussles invaded. Would you rather have that biomass available as baitfish or as zebra mussle? I know what I would choose. You can argue if alewifes are a good food source but I can't see any positive impacts from zebra mussle.

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It occurs to me that you are predicting the demise of the chinook.

Yes, I am. First Chinooks and eventually Cohos. Steelhead and Pinks do appear to be doing fine, though, so they'll likely be around for much longer. It's no surprise, the Chinook is a native of the Pacific Ocean, emphasis on ocean, which has an abundant and diverse forage base to support the species. They thrived in the Great Lakes when alewives were at their peak, and quite honestly I think their initial introduction turned out to be quite successful in controlling alewives. But don't forget, the whole reason they were introduced was to eradicate the invasive alewives, and now that the alewives are disappearing as they should be, the Chinooks are lacking a food source to thrive on. Just observations, nothing more. Many people are making a big deal of the decline of this sport fish, which is understandable, seeing as how it is an incredible fighter that still tastes good and attracts millions of dollars for local economies. But don't forget, the Great Lakes are a dynamic system that lately (the past 200 years) are constantly changing, and not all species, especially introduced ones from a completely different environment, are able to adapt to these changes. More people, especially anglers, need to accept this, which will only lead to further improving the fisheries of the Great Lakes. Obviously, I can't see in to the future, but if I were to predict the populations of the various species over the next 10-20 years it would be: a decrease in Alewife population eventually leading to a major change. At this point, either there will be no pelagic forage to support many of the salmonids which will result in a partial system crash, or more adaptable pelagic forage (Ciscos, Smelt, Shiners) will take their place and support the fishery. Round goby and mussel populations will most likely remain the same. Lake Trout, Brown Trout, and Atlantic Salmon populations will increase. Steelhead population will remain the same. Coho Salmon population will drop anywhere from slightly to severely. Chinook Salmon population will drop severely or disappear.

Again, this is only my prediction based on studying the Great Lakes and Ontario fisheries and individual population behavior. Why do I think Chinooks will disappear? Because they've displayed time and again in the Great Lakes that they're unable to adapt to feed on other species of forage and seem to be almost completely dependent on Alewives, whereas all of the other species, particularly the three whose populations I predict will increase, are the most diverse and adaptable feeders. If anyone would like me to elaborate further, I'd be more than happy to, and quite honestly enjoy these kinds of scientific discussions, as I'm going in to the fields of freshwater biology and ichthyology.

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Chinook will forage on many different types of bait if they are available and they have done just that through their stint in the Great Lakes. Why would it be any different than in the Ocean where, as you stated, the feed on a diverse forage base? If the Chinook fail to survive in the Great Lakes it will be because the huge amount of Lake Trout our Government wants to shove down our throats will have eaten them out of house and home...Back to topic...

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Chinook will forage on many different types of bait if they are available and they have done just that through their stint in the Great Lakes. Why would it be any different than in the Ocean where, as you stated, the feed on a diverse forage base? If the Chinook fail to survive in the Great Lakes it will be because the huge amount of Lake Trout our Government wants to shove down our throats will have eaten them out of house and home...Back to topic...

What are some of the other dominant forage species you've seen they consume? The past several GLFC and fisheries reports I've read seem to point to Chinooks being the least diverse feeders for one reason or another. As far as Lake Trout are concerned, I'd like to see them at historic highs to the point where the population is what is used to be and is completely naturally producing. They're also a native species that has shown to be much more adaptable to a diverse forage base such as Round Gobies, Sculpins, Smelt, and Ciscos and with shifting water conditions. Personally, I'd rather catch Lake Trout than Chinooks, but that's completely beside the point, being which species are more adaptable. This is still pertaining to the topic which branches off of whether it's worth the risk to the entire system to attempt to edit the genes of zebra mussels, which I do not believe it is.

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What are some of the other dominant forage species you've seen they consume? The past several GLFC and fisheries reports I've read seem to point to Chinooks being the least diverse feeders for one reason or another. As far as Lake Trout are concerned, I'd like to see them at historic highs to the point where the population is what is used to be and is completely naturally producing. They're also a native species that has shown to be much more adaptable to a diverse forage base such as Round Gobies, Sculpins, Smelt, and Ciscos and with shifting water conditions. Personally, I'd rather catch Lake Trout than Chinooks, but that's completely beside the point, being which species are more adaptable. This is still pertaining to the topic which branches off of whether it's worth the risk to the entire system to attempt to edit the genes of zebra mussels, which I do not believe it is.

I've seen Smelt, Shad, Shrimp, Spiny Fleas, and occasionally Gobies in Chinook Salmon I've caught over the years. The fact is, Lakers are less adaptive than Chinook to our changing Great Lakes. That's why they keep dumping them in Lake Michigan by the millions, because they haven't adapted well and haven't been reproducing naturally the way the Chinook has. The strain of Lake Trout that was natural is gone now. They are shoving a non-native strain of Lakers down our throats that barely anyone actually in touch with the fishery (and actually paying to support the fishery) wants. There is a new "natural" in our Lakes now. Things have evolved like they naturally will. Humans are part of this evolution and that is a natural thing. We are not above nature, just an unfortunate part of it.

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No I don't so. The zebras are trapping a large portion of nutrients that could be (and was in the past) available to game fish higher on the food chain. Pretty much everything did better before the zebra mussles invaded. Would you rather have that biomass available as baitfish or as zebra mussle? I know what I would choose. You can argue if alewifes are a good food source but I can't see any positive impacts from zebra mussle.

I'd much rather have it available as forage species, no question about that. However, I don't think it's worth the potential consequences to attempt to gene edit the mussels, which is why I'm saying make the best of our current situation.

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I've seen Smelt, Shad, Shrimp, Spiny Fleas, and occasionally Gobies in Chinook Salmon I've caught over the years. The fact is, Lakers are less adaptive than Chinook to our changing Great Lakes. That's why they keep dumping them in Lake Michigan by the millions, because they haven't adapted well and haven't been reproducing naturally the way the Chinook has. The strain of Lake Trout that was natural is gone now. They are shoving a non-native strain of Lakers down our throats that barely anyone actually in touch with the fishery (and actually paying to support the fishery) wants. There is a new "natural" in our Lakes now. Things have evolved like they naturally will. Humans are part of this evolution and that is a natural thing. We are not above nature, just an unfortunate part of it.

Fleas too, that's interesting, I'll have to look further in to that. Thank you for more information, I appreciate it! I will say that Chinooks are doing better in Lake Ontario than any of the other Great Lakes, arguably even better than Lake Trout. But if you look to the midwest's upper Great Lakes, things are changing. Lake Michigan's Chinook population is dwindling while Steelhead, Browns, and Lakers are increasing in abundance. In Lake Huron, Chinooks are almost absent with Lake Trout and Atlantic Salmon populations increasing. And in Superior, Chinooks might as well be gone completely, for as often as they're actually caught, instead what is present is almost without a doubt the best native Lake Trout fishery in the United States with small but stable populations of Steelhead, Coho Salmon, and Pink Salmon. Whether Lake Ontario will follow this trend remains to be seen, but this is just what's happening in the upper lakes and what I predict will also occur in the lower ones too.

Edited by Char_Master

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Georgian bay, part of lake huron has a self sustainting population of chinook that is supported by smelt and not alewife. Fish are smaller but the population is still healthy. Don't think the Chinook are going away anytime soon, decline in size and numbers maybe but short of targeted erratication effort they will be with us for a long time.

The atlantic salmon program has a slim chance of success they are a more sensitive species for sure. I'm not againt catching them but we're tying up a lot of funding and effort that could be better used elsewhere in my opinion. Not to mention canadian management decisions are negatively impacting returns of rainbow and chinook to support a non existent atlantic salmon fishery.

I don't understand the logic behind supporting native over naturalized species. Humans are part of the natural environment and ecosystems have constantly changed over time. We've accelated those changes in many cases but we are talking about successful sport fish that have high cultural and economic value, not an invasive pest species. Chinook are in some ways better adapted to our warmer rivers as they only spend a short time in the river system before smolting out to the lake. Coho, atlantics and rainbow spend longer in the river system and are more susceptible to high temperatures and droughts. Lake trout are obviously highly adaptable but suffer from poor natural reproduction and are not as desirable by the majority of anglers.

Back to gene editing, I would support its use after thorough testing. It's probably the only plausible way to erraticate the zebras which would be benifical to most sportfish. Walleye and sheephead did well before their introduction so I still don't see any potential negative impact of their eradication.

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Georgian bay, part of lake huron has a self sustainting population of chinook that is supported by smelt and not alewife. Fish are smaller but the population is still healthy. Don't think the Chinook are going away anytime soon, decline in size and numbers maybe but short of targeted erratication effort they will be with us for a long time.

The atlantic salmon program has a slim chance of success they are a more sensitive species for sure. I'm not againt catching them but we're tying up a lot of funding and effort that could be better used elsewhere in my opinion. Not to mention canadian management decisions are negatively impacting returns of rainbow and chinook to support a non existent atlantic salmon fishery.

I don't understand the logic behind supporting native over naturalized species. Humans are part of the natural environment and ecosystems have constantly changed over time. We've accelated those changes in many cases but we are talking about successful sport fish that have high cultural and economic value, not an invasive pest species. Chinook are in some ways better adapted to our warmer rivers as they only spend a short time in the river system before smolting out to the lake. Coho, atlantics and rainbow spend longer in the river system and are more susceptible to high temperatures and droughts. Lake trout are obviously highly adaptable but suffer from poor natural reproduction and are not as desirable by the majority of anglers.

Back to gene editing, I would support its use after thorough testing. It's probably the only plausible way to erraticate the zebras which would be benifical to most sportfish. Walleye and sheephead did well before their introduction so I still don't see any potential negative impact of their eradication.

Georgian Bay was also, and still is, Lake Huron's largest stronghold of native strain Lake Trout too, so my guess would be that either the forage base and or water conditions in it allow for a multitude of species to thrive. I do have to agree with you here though, at least in Lake Ontario, Chinooks will most likely be around for longer than they will be in the other lakes.

Where would you suggest that these funds that Canada is using to restore Atlantic Salmon go instead? Canada is making greater progress with this program over the past several years and as long as efforts are maintained, I predict there will be an Atlantic Salmon fishery (at least in Canadian tributaries) available to anglers within the next 8-15 years. If this fishery does take form, it will likely attract many anglers to it who wish to pursue one of the most revered fish in the world. The reason that so many people flock to NY for Chinooks and Steelhead is because of tradition, it's been a thriving fishery for decades now and so obviously anglers would be attracted to it and want to protect it. A switch from Chinooks to Atlantics, regardless of how gradual, would be a major change in the fishery which is why I think many anglers are hesitant to support it.

As far as favoring native species over introduced ones, there's been debates over this for years and there will continue to be. Personally, I feel that humans have the responsibility to protect native species due to all the unnatural damage and changes that we cause in the environment where thousands of other species that can't do anything to protect themselves from these changes also reside. I think that native species have a natural right to exist that humans shouldn't be depriving entire populations of fish of (I'll stop with the philosophy now :) ). That said, I can also see the social and economic benefits that certain introduced species have as well, so I'm not fully against all introduced/invasive species. Now, speaking from my personal perspective instead of a more scientific one. I'd gladly make the 5.5-6 hour drive to the Salmon River several times in a season if Atlantics were in fishable numbers, and will make it up to troll the lake two or three times a year primarily for Lake Trout (with Steelhead and Browns on the side), but not solely for Chinook Salmon. So obviously someone enjoys and appreciates Lakers and Atlantics :). And I have a few friends that think the same way too.

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I'm glad you and your friends enjoy fishing for Lake Trout, but over here on Lake Michigan you would be in the minority. We still catch plenty of King Salmon over here, but they are mostly natural fish, which verifies their capability of surviving in our changing lake. Numbers are down, but mostly because they keep cutting them out of the stocking numbers. Truth is though, it's the huge amounts of Lakers swimming around that are putting a hurt on the available bait, and our Lake Michigan Committee has no idea how many long lived Laker mouths are swimming around, yet they continue to dump them in by the millions.

The zebra mussell problem isn't going away any time soon and the only thing that can keep them in check are predators like the round goby, and the millions of Lakers are putting a hurt on them, too. Even if you have an appreciation for Lake Trout, overstocking them is definitely a bad idea, and hopefully your DEC won't be allowed to make the same mistakes our DNRs have made over here. It takes a long time to eradicate overpopulated Lake Trout that most anglers don't target so decisions on stocking cuts have to be made much quicker than with other Salmonids.

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