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Environment, Federal Politics, Ontario Politics

Ottawa completes $400,000 Asian carp science lab

A $400,000 ASIAN CARP science lab was opened by Public Works Minister Diane Finley Monday as part of $17.5 million committed by Ottawa to fight the spread of this aquatic invasive species.

Captured grass carp at Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans research lab in Burlington, ON (Andrew Reeves)

Captured grass carp at Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans research lab in Burlington, ON (Andrew Reeves)

The new lab in Burlington, Ontario — which is housed in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Canada Centre for Inland Waters — will allow sample testing to be done in Canada rather than relying on genetic testing of water samples to be done in the United States to identify Asian carp DNA in Canadian rivers or the Great Lakes.

“The potential presence of Asian Carp in our waterways presents a significant threat for our waterways, and in turn our commercial and recreational fisheries,” Finley said in a written statement.

“The Harper Government is working to ensure that we take all possible preventative measures. We now have a state-of-the-art facility in Burlington which means that faster and more reliable research for invasive species can take place right here in Canada.”

Ottawa now claims test results will be returned to federal scientists within hours as opposed to days or weeks, which they argue will save time and money while improving the response time for ongoing monitoring efforts.

The release also states that facility employees will begin conducting “routine early detection inspections in high-risk waterways” beginning in summer 2014.

Asian carp are an aquatic invasive species first introduced in North America in the late 1970s. Originally intended to clean sewage lagoons and aquaculture ponds, four species of the fish escaped into the wild and have decimated native species as they spread north through the Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri and other rivers. They are currently being kept out of the Great Lakes by a series of electric barriers, locks and herbicides south of Chicago while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Congress debate long-term solutions to separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin.

The $400,000 dedicated towards the new Ontario facility is part of the $17.5 million over five years earmarked for measures to combat Asian carp announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and DFO Minister Keith Ashfield in May 2012.

Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Bill Mauro told Reeves Report Monday he welcomes the new facility and is pleased that Ottawa recognizes the severity of the threat Asian carp and other invasives pose to the province.

“Our government will continue to partner with the federal government to ensure Ontario’s economy and environment are protected,” Mauro said in an emailed statement.

Dilhari Fernando, executive director with the Sault Ste. Marie-based Invasive Species Centre, told Reeves Report Monday her group is pleased at how quickly the lab became operational. Getting lab results back as quickly as possible is critically important when it comes to halting the spread of invasives, especially one as voracious as Asian carp, Fernando said.

Her group, along with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, has been working closely with DFO to tackle public outreach to educate Canadians about Asian carp. They’ve recently launched a website — asiancarp.ca — that aims to serve as a one-stop for anything Canadians need to know about federal and provincial efforts to halt their spread. It’s just a splash page for now, but the full site will be launched in December.

Earlier this year, Ontario’s then Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti unveiled the first stand-alone invasive species legislation in Canada with the Invasive Species Act. The bill would have streamlined some of the regulatory overlap between provincial, municipal and federal efforts to monitor the spread of invasives while making it easier for all governments to take effective and timely action if and when invasive species are detected.

“These are serious issues and invasives are having significant negative impacts on our environment and economy,” Orazietti told reporters in February.

“In the past few years we have been hearing more and more about invasive species. This is becoming a much greater challenge in Ontario today than it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago.”

Invasives cost the province tens of millions each year. Zebra mussels alone suck up more than $90 million from the provincial treasury annually just to mitigate the damage they do, while invasive plants cost the agriculture and forestry sectors nationally upwards of $7.3 billion each year.

“They put our resource based jobs at risk and our forestry industry and commercial fisheries and agriculture jobs at risk, in addition to tourism and more,” Orazietti told reporters. “Being home to the Great Lakes with our high levels of trade and travel, Ontario is particularly at risk from invasives.”

While the legislation was derailed with the June 12 Ontario general election, returning Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised the Invasive Species Act, along with environmental and other bills that died on the order paper in May, will be recalled.

An overview of Canada’s involvement in combatting Asian carp can be found here.

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


One thought on “Ottawa completes $400,000 Asian carp science lab

  1. Good post Andrew. The Chinese carps have a great potential to change the fish community in the Great Lakes and all the river basins feeding them over the coming decades, particularly as an anthropocentric – negative adaptation to a changing climate. Each female Bighead Carp produces hundreds of thousands of eggs annually, broadcasting them broadly into weedy habitats where they will grow, eat, thrive and ultimately change the ecosystem to something different. Our basses, trouts, pike and walleye don’t have that reproductive strategy, producing only tens or hundreds of eggs each cycle. They don’t have nearly the same magnitude of fecundity of the carps, which is why it’s been so difficult to combat the spread of Common Carp which was brought here in the 1730’s by early settlers from Europe. Unfortunately, over the past 25 years of my observations, the provincial government in Ontario has failed to limit cross border transport of live bait and exotic food fish – last weekend I saw live Pangasius catfish in an Asian market in Brampton. These would also thrive if released to the wild; and releasing them into ponds or waterways is considered a charitable act and done during celebrations of weddings, births and deaths. We are regularly seeing them turn up in stormwater management ponds throughout the GTA. Education needs to reach out to new Canadians, equally if not more than to the older Canadians. Hopefully the Invasive Species Act can act to stem this flow before anything else gets away.

    S. Taylor, Biologist

    Posted by Shawn Taylor | July 8, 2014, 10:27 am

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