**The title, authors, and abstract for this completion report are provided below.  For a copy of the completion report, please contact the GLFC via e-mail or via telephone at 734-662-3209**

 

 

Managing Fish Translocation Risks Using Real Options: Sea lamprey pathogen screening as a case study  

Eli Fenichel1,2, Jean I. Tsao1,3, Michael Jones1,2, and Grahm J. Hickling 4

1Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI 48824

2The Quantitative Fisheries Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI 48824

3Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI 48824

4Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee, Knoxville TN 37996

Abstract

This report, funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, develops a bioeconomic framework for evaluation of Great Lakes disease introduction risks associated with sea lamprey translocations undertaken as part of the Sterile Male Release Technique (SMRT) program. The SMRT program is a component of the integrated pest management program for sea lamprey control in the St. Marys River, northern Lake Huron. Male sea lamprey are collected, sterilized, and released into the St. Marys River to compete with wild fertile males for female mates to reduce overall spawning success. The sea lamprey sterilized for the program mostly come from the upper Great Lakes, however some are brought into upper Great Lakes from Lake Ontario. Despite the demonstrated benefits of the SMRT program, there is concern that the translocating sea lamprey as part of the program could introduce new pathogens that might trigger disease outbreaks within the recreational or commercial fish stocks of the upper Great Lakes. Consequently, the Great Lakes Fish Health Committee currently recommends that samples of Lake Ontario sea lamprey be screened for pathogens prior to translocation. The appropriate extent and thus necessary cost of this screening program remains uncertain.

Our objectives were 1) to develop an analytical framework capable of integrating the potential costs of pathogen introduction versus the benefits of using Lake Ontario sterile male sea lamprey in the St. Marys River SMRT program; 2) to identify the analyses and data required for bioeconomic evaluation of the present sea lamprey pathogen screening strategy; and 3) to make general recommendations regarding the application of these kinds of bioeconomic analyses to other inter-lake fish translocation issues.

A review of the literature suggests that Real Options Analysis (ROA) provides a useful framework for decision making about risks associated with fish translocations. ROA is a form of benefit-cost analysis that can explicitly account for the tradeoff between the benefits and costs of the sea lamprey translocation. A key difference between ROA and traditional benefit-cost analyses is that ROA takes into account the uncertainty and irreversibility implicit in management action. For example, using ROA it is possible to include the risk and potential irreversible effects of pathogen transfer. Therefore, ROA is a precautionary approach that relates the degree of precaution merited to the uncertainty associated with the decision in general and pathogen transfer risk in particular. The result of an ROA analysis is a decision rule to either proceed with a program that is expected to provide benefits but may have irreversible consequences, or to delay the program and undertake further investigation of the situation so as to reduce uncertainty. As uncertainty is reduced it will become clearer whether the proposed program truly provides net benefits.

This report explains the ROA approach and outlines how it can be applied to decisions about the use of Lake Ontario sea lamprey as part of the St. Marys SMRT program. This report also illustrates the role a screening program can play in reducing the probability of pathogen translocation. A meaningful ROA analysis will explicitly consider the SMRT pathogen screening strategy, its influence on the likelihood of pathogen translocation, and its cost of operation.

For future work, we recommend the following: