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Top Scientists Descend on Minnesota

Genetic Biocontrol May Bring Answers to Invasive Species

Invasive fish species, a major threat to biodiversity not just in the Great Lakes and the Mississippi but worldwide, are the focus of an international symposium bringing top aquatic scientists from around the world to Minneapolis, June 2124, for an interactive scientific exchange about genetic biocontrol technologies as potential solutions.

Researchers from Australia, Canada, and the United States will speak, and participants from as far away as Norway, Malaysia and South Africa, together will look at gene-based, chromosome-based and other types of biocontrol methods, placing special emphasis on taking precautions and assessing environmental risks at this first-time-ever International Symposium on Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Fish, hosted by Minnesota Sea Grant and Dartmouth College. Regulatory and economic factors will also be examined.

Invasive fish species cost the world economy billions of dollars annually and this conference will look at the particular species in the Colorado River Basin, the Laurentian Great Lakes, The Mississippi River Basin, and the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia, including the Asian carp that are in the Mississippi River, but not yet in the Great Lakes. Teams will consider the current "daughterless carp" project (that's the common carp, not Asian carp), the Trojan Y chromosome strategy, and use of genetically modified organisms that sterilize, reduce fertility, or increase mortality of the targeted invasive species. Biocides (fish pesticides) and triploidy (creating fish with three sets of chromosomes instead of two, which produces sterility) are on the agenda.

Such methods are still in experimental stages and this gathering of the worldwide science community is a very early step in looking toward genetic biocontrol for possible answers. "At this point we are asking 'should we' and 'what are the risks,' not promoting use of any certain technology we're in the research side of things, not the management side as yet," said Jeff Gunderson, Director of Minnesota Sea Grant. Research needs and next steps will be identified at the symposium, which will also produce three synthesis papers, and a shared understanding of genetic biocontrol issues worldwide.

Visit www.seagrant.umn.edu/ais/biocontrol for more information and the agenda.

Posted on June 18, 2010


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