Grass carp have invaded three of the Great Lakes

The Stars – Invasive grass carp, one of four Asian carp species have reached three of the Great Lakes and pose a significant environmental risk there, but time remains to prevent them from getting out of hand, according to a scientific analysis released Friday.

“It is just a matter of time, if they are in Michigan, then it is just a matter of time before they are in Lake Huron,” said Mr. Wilton.

Grass carp have arrived in the Great Lakes basin, according to a report released last week by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The study concludes that grass carp have been found in Lakes Michigan, Erie and Ontario.

The report ‘Binational Ecological Risk Assessment of Grass Carp for the Great Lakes Basin’ concluded that the ecological consequences of grass carp in most areas of the Great Lakes basin could be extreme within the next 50 years. Wetlands in the Great Lakes basin are particularly vulnerable should Grass carp become established, a recent Fisheries and Oceans Canada release noted.

The scientific, peer-reviewed study was led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, coordinated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and authored by experts from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the University of Toronto Scarborough, the US Geological Survey and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The results of the study will be used by both countries to shape decisions about grass carp prevention and management activities.

From 2013 to 2016, DFO’s Asian carp program has recorded and analyzed 23 grass carp captured from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Of the fish caught, nine were fertile grass carp, capable of reproducing. Scientific analysis concluded that all of the fish were born outside the Great Lakes waters and made their way into Canada.

Asian carp are considered the single greatest invasive species threat to the Great Lakes. Native to Eurasia, Asian carp aggressively outcompete native fishes for food and habitat and can quickly overtake an eco-system.

Dominic LeBlanc, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Honourable Kathryn McGarry, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, made a joint statement on January 27 on the announcement. “We confirm our joint commitment to the fight against Asian carp in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes following the release of the Binational Ecological Risk Assessment for Grass Carp in the Great Lakes Basin.”

“Both (DFO) and the (MNRF) recognize the critical importance of early intervention to prevent the establishment of invasive species,” the statement continued. “We share common goals of protecting the biodiversity and habitat of the Great Lakes and Ontario’s aquatic eco-systems. The results of the  Binational Risk Assessment will be used to inform operational decisions by both our agencies and guide early detection and other operational efforts to keep Asian carp out of our waters.”

The ministers stated, “as noted in the risk assessment, the study concluded that grass carp, one of four Asian carp species, have arrived in parts of the Great Lakes basin. The study also concluded that the ecological consequences of grass carp in most areas of the Great Lakes basin could be extreme within the next 50 years. Arrival is just the first stage of the introduction process and through continued collaboration at the highest levels of each agency we have an opportunity to halt the introduction of grass carp in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes.”

“We remain steadfastly committed to this fight and to the partnership between our agencies. Our future plans include: continued participation in the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee; ongoing enforcement and inspection operations; ongoing research within both agencies towards a better understanding of aquatic invasive species in general and Asian carp in particular; the coordination of a Binational Ecological Risk Assessment for black carp and a joint DFO and MNRF on-water Asian carp response exercise near Lake Erie planned for April 2017,” the two ministers said.

“It is just a matter of time before the carp reach Lake Huron if they are in Michigan,” said Mr. Wilton. He said it is difficult to stop the carp, but that action should have been taken to cut off access for the carp at Chicago.

Robert Hecky, vice-chair of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, said, “researchers and experts from Canada and the United States together applied the highest scientific standards in the development of this peer-reviewed risk assessment. The report released today presents the most current science available about the risks posed by grass carp to the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, the news is not good. The assessment suggests grass carp pose substantial risk to the Great Lakes. It is the commission’s hope that the conclusions will inform decisions around the management and prevention of grass carp and emphasize the need to prevent the future introduction of any invasive species.”