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Asian carp pose greatest threat to Great Lakes, says Tory MPP

In Lakes
Nov 2nd, 2013

Tory MPP Toby Barrett fears man is losing the battle to keep the dreaded Asian carp out of the Great Lakes
By: Richard J. Brennan Toronto Star Oct 31 2013
Tory MPP Toby Barrett fears man is losing the battle to keep the dreaded Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.
Barrett, whose riding of Haldimand—Norfolk takes in the north shore of Lake Erie, has taken a particular interest in this ravenous species that he says is at the door of the Great Lakes despite efforts to keep it at bay.
“I have long feared the day when Asian carp start reproducing in the Great Lakes,” Barrett said. “The potential for disaster is there.”
Earlier this week, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and Bowling Green State University reported for the first time they’ve determined a species of Asian carp has successfully reproduced within the Great Lakes watershed.
Four grass carp were captured last year in Ohio’s Sandusky River, a tributary of Lake Erie. Scientists concluded the fish spent their entire time in the river and were not introduced by other means.
Canada’s department federal Fisheries and Oceans Canada was not available for comment on the report.
Grass carp were among four species imported from Asia decades ago to control algae and unwanted plants in controlled settings such as sewage treatment lagoons. They escaped and spread into the Mississippi and other rivers and lakes in the Midwest U.S.
“If they get into the Great Lakes it would be devastating. These fish eat everything. Especially in Lake Erie, where I am sure they would replace virtually all species,” Barrett told the Star.
Of greater concern are big head and silver carp, which are prolific breeders that consume huge amounts of plankton vital to aquatic food chains. Less worrisome are the grass carp because they feed on larger plants and don’t compete with native species.
Barrett said the $7 billion sports fishery and $234 million commercial fishery is in jeopardy.
“Billions and billions in tourism and fishery dollars are at stake,” he told legislature this week.
The veteran MPP noted that an electrified barrier is all that is keeping Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan through the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal and a simple chain link fence in Indiana’s Eagle Marsh, which could provide direct access into Lake Erie in the event of flooding.
Barrett said his concern is that Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources is not taking the threat seriously enough.
“We need action, not more environmental laws or strategies or panels or dithering. We need an MNR bill to put invasive species on the front burner and make it a top priority. It’s an MNR issue, not environment,” he said, referring to a Great Lakes environment bill before the legislature.
“My fear is that this Ontario government is not up to speed . . . they just don’t get it and aren’t putting the emphasis on Asian carp it needs . . . this is the largest threat to the Great Lakes ever — bar none.”
Natural Resources Minister David Orazietta said the province is working with Ottawa to keep the Asian carp at bay, adding that Ontario in 2005 banned Asian carp importation. The province and the federal governments have invested millions in the Invasive Species Research Institute at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie.
“I can tell you that our government is working closely with the federal government and with border enforcement officers,” he told the legislature.
The minister explained it is the federal government’s responsibility to keep invasive species out of Canada but it’s up to the province to take measures once they show up.
“Once the species is established . . . it then becomes the responsibility of the province to mitigate or find the resources to eradicate the invasive species,” he said, reading from his briefing book. “Carp entering and getting into the Great Lakes is a very real threat . . . despite the best efforts.”
Orazietta acknowledged Asian grass carp was found in the Grand River, which flows into Lake Erie, but it was found to be sterile, indicating it did not originate in the wild.
Freshwater fisheries scientist Nick Mandrak, of the Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (GLLFAS) in Burlington has said that it will take “major vigilance to keep them out of Canadian waters.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to release a report in coming months on a long-term solution to the Asian carp threat.

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