Feds are taking steps toward Asian carp prevention
MUSKOKA - The federal government has announced it will invest $17.5 million to help protect Canada’s Great Lakes from invasive Asian carp.
Tony Clement, member of Parliament for Parry Sound-Muskoka, said he has met with area advocates, including the Georgian Bay Association, who aim to prevent Asian carp infestations here.
“This announcement comes as welcome news for the protection of our native fish species and the overall health of our aquatic eco systems,” said Clement in a media release. “Our efforts to date have kept the threat at bay, and this new funding will fortify our defences against this invasive species entering our watersheds, which is of vital importance to Parry Sound-Muskoka, and across the country.”
Asian carp aggressively compete with native fish for food and habitat and can quickly become the dominant species. The fish are now in the Mississippi River system in the United States, and officials on both sides of the Canada-United States border share concerns that the carp could enter the Great Lakes watershed.
Keith Ashfield, minister of fisheries and oceans, announced the federal government’s funding initiative on May 28. The $17.5 million will be allocated over the next five years to four activities — prevention, early warning, rapid response, and management and control.
As part of prevention activities, emphasis will be placed on initiatives to educate people about the danger of the invasive species and ways to prevent humans from bringing Asian carp into Canadian waters.
“The Great Lakes are important to the economic and cultural make-up of Canadians who live and work on these waters. These lakes support both recreational and commercial fisheries and a way of life for our people,” said Ashfield. “Our efforts to date have prevented Asian carp from establishing in the Great Lakes system and we will continue to do what is necessary to keep them from taking over this valuable watershed.”
The government will also work with counterparts in the United States to develop an extensive early warning and monitoring system to alert officials of signs of any potential problems, along with rapid response protocols for both countries to be able to react quickly should there be signs that they are spreading.
To manage and control the threat of the carps’ entry into Canadian waters, the government will also work with enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with regulations relating to the transport of the fish.
“The Great Lakes is the largest freshwater system in the world and represents one of Canada’s most valuable assets,” added Minister Ashfield. “We are committed to working with our American counterparts to continue to protect the Great Lakes basin. Together these measures will go a long way toward our ultimate goal of stopping Asian carp from entering and becoming established in the Great Lakes.”
Asian carp were introduced to North America in the 1970s. In the southern United States, most were brought in for use in the aquaculture industry. In Canada, Asian carp are imported for the live food fish industry.
Flooding in the southern United States in the 1970s and onward resulted in Asian carp moving beyond their contained environments into open freshwater water systems. Adapting quickly to their environments, two Asian carp species, Bighead and Silver carp began migrating northward through the Mississippi Basin.
Asian carp DNA was found 10 kilometres from Lake Michigan in 2009, indicating that the fish were much closer to the Great Lakes than previously thought.
Canada provided equipment and expertise toward containment efforts in Illinois to prevent Asian carp from passing unrestricted through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal into the Great Lakes. The key control mechanism used in that waterway was, and still is, a series of electrical barriers that require ongoing maintenance to ensure their effectiveness and longer-term operation.