News Detail

Feds on hook for more money in fight against Asian carp

By: Mary Caton

Published on: February 7, 2018 | Last Updated: February 7, 2018 9:56 AM EST

There will be more boots on the ground and at the water’s edge in an ongoing fight to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes following a recent federal government commitment of $20 million over the next five years.

Additional funding means more researchers monitoring areas at high risk for invasion, including Essex County.

“It’s a very high-risk area, one we would visit more than once a year,” said Becky Cudmore, the lead scientist for the Asian Carp program run by the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans.

The team fighting the threat at the Canadian Centre for Inland Waters will expand to 10 researchers from three.

“This allows us to be much more effective and efficient,” Cudmore said. “We were doing 10 people’s worth of work because there’s lots of lakes to cover.”

Cudmore said the four-year-old Burlington-based lab focuses on early detection by sending out surveillance teams “to very specific areas identified by science as being high risk for Asian carp invasion.”

The program has identified 54 high-risk areas on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes.

A larger staff and increased funding means “we’ll be able to hit a lot more rivers this year,” Cudmore said.

She said her team “spends quite a bit of time” studying local waterways such as the Canard River and Lake St. Clair.

Her team deploys a variety of equipment to determine the presence of anything from an egg to an adult fish.

“We’ll spend a week at a time in one area and blanket it looking for any signs,” she said.

Hugh MacIsaac, a University of Windsor professor specializing in invasion biology with the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, calls the federal government’s financial commitment “prudent.”

“Better to put the money up front to keep them out than try to eradicate them once they are in — almost impossible to do in big systems,” MacIsaac wrote in an email. 

There are five species of Asian carp but the two more feared species are the silver and bighead carp. 

“Silver and bighead carp can grow to enormous size and as filter feeders, could strip plankton out of the water,” MacIsaac said.

“This would harm fish larvae of other key species that are dependent on this food source at their early stage of life. Silver carp are also notorious for their jumping ability when disturbed by passing motorboats.”

Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced a partnership between several states and Ontario to help cover the costs of operating a system designed to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

The invasive fish have already breached the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a $275-million plan to block the carp from entering Lake Michigan with a proposed overlapping system of electronic barriers, noisemakers and water jets located at a Chicago area waterway.

Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Ontario have agreed to help cover annual operating costs of $8 million once the system is up and running in a targeted date of 2025.

“No single state, province or government jurisdiction should have to bear the sole responsibility of keeping invasive carp out of the Great Lakes,” Snyder said.

Experts warn the introduction of invasive carp would do irreparable damage to the ecosystem and threaten a $7-billion fishery industry.

Cudmore said additional Canadian funding will also encompass more outreach to commercial fishermen, anglers and cottagers to keep an eye out for the invasive species.

Sightings can be reported to the province’s Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or you can download a smartphone app to report sightings through the website for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

“Ontario supports in principle the actions proposed by Gov. Snyder,” MNRF spokesman Jolanta Kowalski said.

Kowalski said exactly how much that support would cost Ontario taxpayers was not available.

Snyder’s plan sees costs divvied up according to how much of the Great Lakes were contained in each state or province. Michigan, with more than 40 per cent, would pay the most, followed by Ontario with 36 per cent surface area.

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