Beefing up protections against aquatic invasive species like Asian carp has taken a prominent place in the latest Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) governing how both governments aim to work together on protecting the Great Lakes.
“Aquatic invasives have altered Great Lakes ecosystems and caused significant disruptions to many of the benefits those ecosystems provide to Canadians,” the agreement states. “The continued introduction of AIS is one of the most significant threats to biodiversity in the Great Lakes.”
Queen’s Park and Ottawa released a draft copy of the eighth such agreement to be signed since 1971 on Thursday. Negotiations on the agreement began in June 2012 and it’s expected the deal will be finalized in summer 2014.
Annex 6 is of particular interest to those curious about how Ontario and Ottawa plan to deal with the growing threat of aquatic invasive species (AIS) flowing north and south from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin and into the Mississippi River and beyond.
If ratified, the CAO will commit Ontario and the federal government to develop an early detection and rapid response framework for aquatic invasives within two years. The framework will be guided by risk assessments, involve all required jurisdictions and agencies and “includes the development and implementation of watch lists, detection programs, reporting protocols and coordinated institutional, science, and management responses for AIS.”
Any framework Canada and Ontario create will be coordinated with agencies in the United States, they report, including U.S. federal and state governments and agencies and organizations like the United States Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.
The plan also commits Canada and Ontario to “explore and expand the use of new techniques,” including genetic testing and rapid assessment technologies to better detect aquatic invasives and potential pathways before they’re used to transport AIS from one ecosystem to another.
Prevention, detection, rapid response, management and adaptation will drive Canada and Ontario’s actions with regards to aquatic invasives, the document states, to ensure cooperative and coordinated efforts by both levels of government towards the common goal of minimizing the impacts of AIS on Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health.
Goals of the CAO regarding aquatic invasives include:
GOAL 1: Implement controls on ballast water to protect Great Lakes ecosystems from AIS;
GOAL 2: Implement programs to prevent the introduction, establishment and spread of AIS and to control existing AIS where possible;
GOAL 3: Develop coordinated plans for early detection and rapid response initiatives;
GOAL 4: Improve understanding and tools to respond to AIS; and
GOAL 5: Engage the Great Lakes community regarding ways to prevent, detect, respond and manage AIS.
The last two goals reflect a change in the way government is approaching invasives, recognizing the public has a role to play in identifying AIS in places the government simply cannot be. “Increased awareness and education to assist in preventing the spread of AIS and reporting new occurrences” was identified as a crucial outcome of the latest CAO.
Some initiatives are already well underway to help individuals take greater responsibility in the monitoring, prevention and detection of aquatic invasives.
In late March, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, together with the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources, the Invasive Species Centre in Sault Ste. Marie and the Centre for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia released EDDMapS, a smartphone app allowing individuals to record the location and details of invasive species they come across in the wild.
“Preventing invasive species from arriving and becoming established in Ontario is critical in our fight against this growing threat,” says MNR minister David Orazietti. “The App will serve as a key prevention tool helping Ontario to detect and track the spread of invasive species.”
Details of the full COA have been posted on the Environmental Registry for 70 days of public comment until July 3, 2014.