Summer is here and the threat of an Asian carp invasion in the Great Lakes region still looms large for recreational fisheries, cottagers and anyone who wants to keep the Great Lakes, well, great. I’ll share some recent developments below, explain a bit of the history and show you how to help.
Invasive fish species
Asian carp are an invasive species that was introduced to North America in the 1970s. Asian carp can grow to more than 100 lbs and have replaced native species of fish in the Mississippi River and its tributaries, knocking ecosystems out of balance as they go.
Earlier this year, an Asian carp was caught in the Grand River, near Lake Erie (Read the story). And last week, a research report said that Asian carp are able to spawn in a greater number of tributaries than previously thought.
How could they get here?
Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans has warned that Asian carp could expand through the Great Lakes basin because of their ability to prosper in colder waters. If Asian carp reach the Great Lakes, it could impose severe hardship on anyone who enjoys fishing in Ontario, not to mention those who enjoy those waters during the summer.
There are many pathways for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes region but one of the most likely is through the open water that connects the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to Lake Michigan. The best way to protect the Great Lakes waterways from an invasion may be for the United States to physically separate the Mississippi and Great Lakes systems by closing the locks on the Chicago Area Waterway System.
At Ecojustice, we’ve represented groups supporting efforts to close the Chicago Area Water System.
What can Canadians do about Asian carp?
There are also things that can and should be done on the Canadian side of the border. Earlier this year, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources released a policy discussion paper about introducing tougher measures to address Asian carp.
Ecojustice advised several groups about this proposal and encouraged them to exercise their right to comment under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights. We are awaiting a decision. We’ll continue to monitor this threat and seek legal tools to prevent the invasion.
In the meantime, here are 4 ways you can work to protect the Great Lakes: