Stakeholder attitudes towards the use of recombinant technology to manage the impact of an invasive species: Sea Lamprey in the North American Great Lakes

Thresher, REJ, M.; Drake, D. A. R.,  Biological Invasions,  21:575-586. 2019.

Several factors, including: (1) on-going difficulties of cost-effectively managing invasive species; (2) recent successes in using recombinant genetics to suppress mosquito populations; and, (3) developments in gene-drive technology, have re-invigorated interest in using genetic biotechnology to manage the impacts of invasive species. However, the extent to which there is social license’ to develop and use these technologies has not been widely canvassed. We surveyed stakeholders involved directly and indirectly in managing Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) in the upper North American Great Lakes and a key community group of resource usersrecreational fishersto assess their support and concerns about researching, developing, and potentially implementing recombinant methods that an expert group assessed as likely to be effective in managing Sea Lamprey in the Great Lakes. Both groups overwhelmingly supported initiating R&D and, if risks were deemed very low, undertaking steps towards implementation. The key concern expressed by both groups was the risk of impacts to non-target taxa, including valued native populations of Sea Lamprey outside of the Great Lakes. Few respondents expressed opposition based on ethical or moral grounds, which contrasts with previous surveys on the use of recombinant technology in general. The broad support for R&D into recombinant approaches is likely to reflect trust in the nominated implementing agency (the Great Lakes Fishery Commission), its history of extensive consultation prior to undertaking management actions, and the hope that genetic biocontrol could solve the Sea Lamprey problem rather than simply managing it.