Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Canada's Economic Action Plan

Canada's Economic Action Plan

May 28, 2012 09:46 ET

Harper Government Protects the Great Lakes from Asian Carp

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 28, 2012) - The Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, announced that the Government of Canada will make a significant investment to protect Canada's Great Lakes from the threat of Asian carp.

"The Great Lakes are important to the economic and cultural make-up of Canadians who live and work on these waters. These lakes support both recreational and commercial fisheries and a way of life for our people," said Minister Ashfield. "Our efforts to date have prevented Asian carp from establishing in the Great Lakes system and we will continue to do what is necessary to keep them from taking over this valuable watershed."

This new funding totalling $17.5 million will be allocated over the next five years to four key activities: Prevention, early warning, rapid response, and management and control.

As part of prevention activities, emphasis will be placed on initiatives to educate people about the danger of this invasive species and ways to prevent humans from bringing Asian carp into Canadian waters.

The Government of Canada will also work with American counterparts to develop an extensive early warning and monitoring system to alert officials of signs of any potential problems along with rapid response protocols for both countries to be able to react quickly should there be signs that they are spreading. To manage and control the threat of their entry into Canadian waters, the Government of Canada will also work with enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with regulations relating to the transport of Asian carp.

"The Great Lakes is the largest freshwater system in the world and represents one of Canada's most valuable assets," added Minister Ashfield. "We are committed to working with our American counterparts to continue to protect the Great Lake basin. Together these measures will go a long way toward our ultimate goal of stopping Asian carp from entering and becoming established in the Great Lakes."

With Asian carp having established in the Mississippi River system in the U.S., officials on both sides of the border share concerns that they could enter the Great Lakes watershed. Asian carp aggressively compete with native fish for food and habitat, and can quickly become the dominant species. Canada continues to work closely with American counterparts to address concerns about this highly invasive species and to prevent the introduction of Asian carp into the Great Lakes system.


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Asian carp were introduced to North America. In the southern United States, most were brought in for use in the aquaculture industry. In Canada, Asian carp are imported for the live food fish industry.

Flooding in the southern United States in the 1970s and onward, resulted in Asian carp moving beyond their contained environments into open freshwater water systems. Adapting quickly to their environments, two Asian carp species, Bighead and Silver carp (together termed bigheaded carps) began migrating northward through the Mississippi Basin.


Receding waters after a major flood event in Illinois provides the first warning that Asian carp were invading these aquatic environments. Of the many dead fish specimens that lay on the shores of the receding rivers, most were Asian carp, outnumbering local species by a factor of nine to one.

2003 - 2004

Canada participated in two Asian carp summits held in Chicago to consider strategies to prevent the introduction of Asian carp into Lake Michigan.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducted a science-based risk assessment study to evaluate the likelihood of arrival, survival, reproduction spread and impact of Asian carp should they be introduced into Canadian aquatic environments. The study concluded that the risk of impact was high in some parts of Canada, including the southern Great Lakes basin by four Asian carp species.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada Science staff began their ongoing participation in the development of the U.S. Asian carp Control and Management Plan, and in a prevention subgroup.


Canada initiated "border blitzes" of shipments coming into Canada by road and air, for live fishes, specifically Asian carp. Fisheries and Oceans Canada worked with several partner organizations to provide training, equipment and protocols. Since then, several land shipments of live Asian carps have been intercepted, charges laid and convictions imposed.


During the summer, Asian carp DNA was found 10 kilometres from Lake Michigan, indicating that Asian carp were much closer to the Great Lakes than previously thought. In December, Canada provided equipment and expertise towards containment efforts in Illinois to prevent Asian carp from passing unrestricted through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal into the Great Lakes. The key control mechanism used in that waterway was, and still is, a series of electrical barriers that require ongoing maintenance to ensure their effectiveness and longer-term operation.


The Province of British Columbia banned the possession and sale of Asian carp.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea announced the launch of a Great Lakes Basin-wide Bi-national Ecological Risk Assessment of Asian carp for the Great Lakes Basin, to identify likely routes where Silver carp and Bighead carps could enter the Great Lakes and pinpoint key areas within the basin most vulnerable to invasion and impact. Both Canadian and American scientists participated as co-authors of the report and as scientific experts in the peer review. The Government of Canada allocated approximately $415,000 to fund the completion of this study; these funds were in addition to the $4 million invested annually through Budget 2010 to support the Department's overall Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) program and an additional $6.1 million invested annually in the Sea Lamprey Control Program.


The Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada collaborated on mock exercises to test the province's rapid response framework and communication systems that would be required to respond to a sudden introduction of an Asian carp into Ontario.

Federal, state and provincial agencies and academic institutions from both sides of the border concluded 15 months of collaboration, resulting in up-to-date information regarding the risk assessment of Silver and Bighead carp. The binational collaboration continued as experts in risk assessment for aquatic species from a number of Canadian and American agencies came together and formed the risk assessment writing team. They prepared the Risk Assessment document for peer review, which further strengthened the overall process.

The Great Lakes hold 21 percent of the world's above-ground freshwater. The annual revenue generated from the commercial and sport fisheries, as well as thriving tourism and recreational industries is estimated to be in excess of $9 billion CAD . (Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Great Lakes Fisheries Commission).

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
    Frank Stanek
    Media Relations

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
    Barbara Mottram, Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister