On Oct. 1, New Democratic MP Brian Masse from Windsor, Ontario introduced a private member’s bill calling for tougher action and better coordination across Canadian governments in the fight against Asian carp.
The bill would make it illegal to import Asian carp — or “invasive carp,” as Masse calls it in his remarks — into Canada unless the fish is dead. And, to make sure border guards aren’t fooled by fish on ice that later spring to life in water, the fish must be eviscerated. Through a change to the Fisheries Act it would also forbid the inter-provincial transportation of Asian carp.
“We need to provide protection for our ecosystem, protection for our fishing industry, and protection for our sport fishing industry,” Masse said in introducing the legislation. “Asian carp are intrusive and eat the types of materials that other fish do, which ends up starving our fish population. They are very dangerous, as we have seen in the Mississippi River.”
Responding to any potential Asian carp invasion of the Great Lakes or other Canadian waterway is difficult when more than 20 federal and provincial policies and regulations are currently employed to keep Asian carp out of Canada, Masse said. The regs vary by province, he noted, and “fines are often subjective and issued by judges.”
In Ontario, for example, the Liberals attempted to smooth overlapping invasive species regulations by introducing the Invasive Species Act in late 2013, the first stand-alone invasive species legislation in the country to help protect the province from an unwanted influx of nonnative species. While the bill died on the order paper with the June 2014 election call, Premier Kathleen Wynne signalled this month her intention to reintroduce the legislation. With a majority government, if prioritized, the bill should become law.
In calling for a “pan-Canadian strategy” for dealing with Asian carp, Masse is banking on increasing fines paid by individuals and companies caught attempting to illegally import the invasive.
He is hoping $15,000 for any individual caught would make a respectable deterrent for would-be smugglers. For companies, that fine would rise to $75,000. Get caught a second time attempting to import Asian carp and the fines could rise to as much as $1 million and $4 million respectively if the bill passes.
While private member’s bills rarely become law, it is possible the government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper could adopt aspects of this bill given Ottawa’s support for invasive species monitoring and control.
Earlier this summer, the Tories announced the completion of a $400,000 Asian carp science lab at the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington, Ontario. The facility will test water samples for Asian carp eDNA and provide same-day results, as opposed to waiting up to three weeks for results to come back from a lab in Wisconsin.
The Burlington facility is part of more than $17.5 million the Conservatives have dedicated to Asian carp mitigation efforts since 2012.