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Grass carp a risk to Great Lakes: federal study


March 18, 2019
By Ground Water Canada

Burlington, Ont. – Grass carp, one of four species of Asian carp, has the potential to disrupt the Great Lakes ecosystem and economy unless their spread is stopped, according to a recent report by Fisheries and Oceans Canada with support from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

The study concludes that, in addition to the significant ecological threat that is posed by the presence of grass carp in the Great Lakes, there would also be economic, social and cultural ripple effects, the Fisheries and Oceans Central and Arctic Region said in a news release.

The report – “Socio-Economic Risk Assessment Of The Presence Of Grass Carp In The Great Lakes Basin” – found the total economic value of activities in or around the Great Lakes is estimated to generate $13 billion annually. This includes commercial and recreational fishing, hunting, recreational boating, beaches and wildlife viewing. The economic values for these sectors could be at risk if grass carp become established in the Great Lakes basin.

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The management of aquatic invasive species is a shared responsibility of federal, provincial and territorial governments, the release said. To protect our ecosystems and prevent economic loss, the federal government, through the 2017 budget, allocated $43.8 million over five years to help prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species, respond rapidly to the detection of new species, and manage the spread of already established aquatic invasive species. Of this, it invested up to $20 million over five years in the Asian Carp Program to ensure Canada’s Great Lakes are well-protected from harmful impacts of Asian carps, we also made this an ongoing program. The Canadian Asian Carp Program is actively, and successfully, preventing the spread of grass carp into the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes. Since 2012, the Asian Carp program, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, has caught 28 grass carp in the Great Lakes. Of those 28 fish, the majority were triploid – meaning, they had been sterilized through genetic modification.

While the finding of grass carp in Canadian waters is cause for concern, there is no evidence that they have reproduced in Canadian waters or of an established population. Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to work with domestic and U.S. partners to prevent the migration of Asian carps from southern waters.

Researchers are hopeful both studies will provide decision-makers with information for future options to stop the spread of grass carp into the Great Lakes. The report was developed to influence the government’s future protection and management measures.