(Giant Asian Carp caught in American Midwest)
Thanks to Heather Visser of the MNR for sending me details on the Ministry’s Rapid Response Plan – a report for dealing with the dreaded Asian Carp in the Great Lakes.
Here’s the line I like: “only a week earlier a fish importer had been fined $50,000 for trying to truck 1,800 kilograms of live Asian carp across the Windsor/ Detroit border to sell in the Greater Toronto Area.” Ok, what was that imbecile thinking???
Here is a copy of that MNR document:
Asian Carp rapid response plan
If you fish in the Great Lakes or their tributaries, your favourite catch may be walleye or bass, or perhaps muskie or lake trout. So how would you feel if you came home empty-handed because nine out of ten fish out there were plankton-eating bighead or silver carp – AKA Asian carp?
That’s the reality now in parts of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. And that’s why Ontario, Canada and the U.S. want to keep the voracious, invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
The need for a coordinated plan to fight Asian carp led the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, with support from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to host a “table-top exercise” in March. The exercise simulated an incident where Asian carp get into Ontario waters. The aim was to test if the agencies involved are ready to respond quickly to stop their spread.
“Preventing Asian carp from spreading into the Great Lakes is the most cost-effective control measure we’ll ever have,” says Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey. “This exercise was about making sure all the agencies involved work together, and identifying areas where we’re vulnerable.”
For the March 11 exercise, participants rehearsed how they would respond if an accident on a bridge over the Thames River in southwestern Ontario caused a truckload of live Asian carp to be dumped in and near the river. It was a timely choice – only a week earlier a fish importer had been fined $50,000 for trying to truck 1,800 kilograms of live Asian carp across the Windsor/ Detroit border to sell in the Greater Toronto Area. It’s illegal to possess live Asian carp in Ontario.
The term “Asian carp” includes four species – bighead, silver, grass and black carp. The bighead and silver carp currently pose the biggest threat. They weigh up to 45 kilograms and can grow to more than a metre long. As filter feeders that can eat 20 per cent of their body weight a day in plankton, they’re able to grow and multiply faster than native species. In some areas of the U.S. carp populations are doubling every year.
After escaping from aquaculture ponds in the southern U.S. in the 1970s and 80s, Asian carp spread northward, raising fears they could enter the Great Lakes through waterways in the Chicago area. Today in parts of the Mississippi River Basin they have outcompeted native fish and make up as much as 90 per cent of all fish by weight. Yet their commercial value is very low compared to native species.
As well as causing the catastrophic decline of native fish populations and the economic devastation of sport and commercial fisheries, silver carp in particular are a hazard to people on the water. When they’re disturbed by boat motors the fish jump as much as two metres out of the water. Boaters and waterskiers on the Illinois River have already been hit and injured.
Canadian and U.S. experts agree that Asian carp would thrive in the Great Lakes, and that quick action is the only way to prevent Asian carp from spreading if they are found in the Great Lakes Basin.
During the table-top exercise, local MNR staff described how they would place nets upstream and downstream to catch and identify fish in the river, test the fish to find out if they could reproduce, and confirm if the river habitat was suitable for Asian carp. The agencies involved also had to decide if any local species at risk might be harmed by the control measures, and keep governments, partners, the public and the media informed.
“Ontario’s recreational fishery contributes $500 million to the province’s economy each year, our commercial fishery is worth up to $215 million a year, and the Great Lakes ecosystem is priceless,” says Minister Jeffrey. “With so much at stake, we have to be prepared.”
How You Can Help:
- If you believe you have seen or caught an Asian carp, or you have found one in your bait bucket, DO NOT release the fish. Humanely kill it and report your sighting. Please visit www.invadingspecies.com to fill out an online Invasive Species reporting form, or call 1-800-563-7711 toll-free.
- Check your bait and don’t dump your bait bucket in the water.