Harper Government Protects the Great Lakes from Asian Carp

Mon May 28, 2012 9:47am EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

The Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada,
announced that the Government of Canada will make a significant
investment to protect Canada's Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp.

    "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 Minister 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."

    This new funding totalling $17.5 million will be allocated over the next
five years to four key 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 this invasive species and ways to
prevent humans from bringing Asian carp into Canadian waters. 

    The Government of Canada will also work with American counterparts 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 their
entry into Canadian waters, the Government of Canada will also work with
enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with regulations relating to
the transport of Asian carp.

    "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 Lake 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." 

    With Asian carp having established in the Mississippi River system in the
U.S., officials on both sides of the border share concerns that they
could enter the Great Lakes watershed. Asian carp aggressively compete
with native fish for food and habitat, and can quickly become the
dominant species. Canada continues to work closely with American
counterparts to address concerns about this highly invasive species and
to prevent the introduction of Asian carp into the Great Lakes system.


    This news release is available online at: www.actionplan.gc.ca. 






    Asian carp were introduced to North America. 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 (together termed bigheaded
carps) began migrating northward through the Mississippi Basin.


    Receding waters after a major flood event in Illinois provides the first
warning that Asian carp were invading these aquatic environments. Of the
many dead fish specimens that lay on the shores of the receding rivers,
most were Asian carp, outnumbering local species by a factor of nine to

    2003 - 2004 

    Canada participated in two Asian carp summits held in Chicago to consider
strategies to prevent the introduction of Asian carp into Lake Michigan. 

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducted a science-based risk assessment
study to evaluate the likelihood of arrival, survival, reproduction
spread and impact of Asian carp should they be introduced into Canadian
aquatic environments. The study concluded that the risk of impact was
high in some parts of Canada, including the southern Great Lakes basin by
four Asian carp species. 

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada Science staff began their ongoing
participation in the development of the U.S. Asian carp Control and
Management Plan, and in a prevention subgroup. 


    Canada initiated "border blitzes" of shipments coming into Canada by road
and air, for live fishes, specifically Asian carp. Fisheries and Oceans
Canada worked with several partner organizations to provide training,
equipment and protocols. Since then, several land shipments of live Asian
carps have been intercepted, charges laid and convictions imposed.  


    During the summer, Asian carp DNA was found 10 kilometres from Lake
Michigan, indicating that Asian carp were much closer to the Great Lakes
than previously thought. In December, Canada provided equipment and
expertise towards 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. 


    The Province of British Columbia banned the possession and sale of Asian

    On behalf of the Government of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail
Shea announced the launch of a Great Lakes Basin-wide Bi-national
Ecological Risk Assessment of Asian carp for the Great Lakes Basin, to
identify likely routes where Silver carp and Bighead carps could enter
the Great Lakes and pinpoint key areas within the basin most vulnerable
to invasion and impact. Both Canadian and American scientists
participated as co-authors of the report and as scientific experts in the
peer review. The Government of Canada allocated approximately $415,000 to
fund the completion of this study; these funds were in addition to the $4
million invested annually through Budget 2010 to support the Department's
overall Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) program and an additional $6.1
million invested annually in the Sea Lamprey Control Program. 


    The Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada collaborated on mock
exercises to test the province's rapid response framework and
communication systems that would be required to respond to a sudden
introduction of an Asian carp into Ontario.

    Federal, state and provincial agencies and academic institutions from
both sides of the border concluded 15 months of collaboration, resulting
in up-to-date information regarding the risk assessment of Silver and
Bighead carp. The binational collaboration continued as experts in risk
assessment for aquatic species from a number of Canadian and American
agencies came together and formed the risk assessment writing team. They
prepared the Risk Assessment document for peer review, which further
strengthened the overall process. 

    The Great Lakes hold 21 percent of the world's above-ground freshwater.
The annual revenue generated from the commercial and sport fisheries, as
well as thriving tourism and recreational industries is estimated to be
in excess of $9 billion CAD . (Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Great
Lakes Fisheries Commission). 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
Frank Stanek
Media Relations

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
Barbara Mottram, Press Secretary
Office of the Minister

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