A new report says it's time to tackle a potential Asian carp invasion in the Great Lakes: Environmental Defence urges action to protect the Great Lakes, and the economy, from the threat of this invasive species

TORONTO, July 11, 2013 /CNW/ - This Ontario Family Fishing Week, a new report warns of the threat of an invasive species which could put the health of the Great Lakes at stake, and damage Ontario's boating, fishing and tourism economies. The report released today, Tipping the Scales: How Canada and Ontario Can Prevent an Asian Carp Invasion of the Great Lakes, outlines recommendations on what can be done to prevent Asian carp from establishing in the lakes.

"Once Asian carp take hold of a lake or river, they wreak havoc on the ecosystem, steal food from other fish species, and are nearly impossible to get rid of," said Nancy Goucher, water programs manager at Environmental Defence. "We need to act now to prevent an invasion because the cost of doing nothing is too high."

Because they breed quickly, have no natural predators, and can consume as much as 20 per cent of their body weight in a day, Asian carp can monopolize food sources and push out native species. They also have zombie-like qualities, appearing like they're dead when they're not, and can survive up to 48 hours out of water.

Currently, the only thing stopping Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes at its most vulnerable point is a series of electric fences in the Chicago Area Waterway System, which connects the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. However, these fences are not failsafe and a permanent solution is needed to stop invasive species from moving between the two watersheds.

If Asian carp are able to invade, it would mean fewer prized sport and commercial fish species in the Great Lakes, leaving the binational Great Lakes fishery, valued at $7 billion US annually, as well as Ontario's boating and tourism industries at severe risk.

"Ontario's angler community is greatly concerned about the potential impacts Asian carp will have on the Great Lakes," said Terry Quinney, provincial manager of fish and wildlife services with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. "Asian carp will devastate populations of game fish that are most valuable to anglers, as demonstrated in U.S. waters where they have already invaded. Keeping Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes needs to be the highest priority on both sides of the border."

Asian carp now compose as much as 95 per cent of the fish in some Illinois rivers. The federal government predicts that if Asian carp get into Lake Michigan, they would spread to Lake Huron and Georgian Bay within five years and into Lake Erie within 20 years.

"The good news is that there is still time to prevent these dreaded invaders from establishing in the Great Lakes," said Goucher. "This is an issue that affects both sides of the border, and everyone - government and individuals - can play a role in protecting the health of the lakes for generations to come."

In Canada, governments at the federal and provincial level can encourage their American counterparts to quickly identify and implement a permanent solution in the Chicago Area Waterway system. They can also work together on effective border enforcement, and strengthening outreach and education efforts to cottagers, anglers, and the general public to prevent a full-scale invasion from happening.

Ontario residents can also take a number of steps to help prevent Asian carp from establishing in the Great lakes including: not buying, selling or transporting live Asian carp for food; reporting Asian carp sightings to the Invasive Species Hotline at 1‐800‐563‐7711 or online at invadingspecies.com; not using carp as baitfish since it's illegal in Ontario; and ensuring unused bait is dumped at least 30 metres from any lake or river.

Environmental Defence's report, Tipping the Scales: How Canada and Ontario Can Prevent an Asian Carp Invasion of the Great Lakes can be downloaded at environmentaldefence.ca/asiancarp.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

SOURCE: Environmental Defence

For further information:

or to arrange an interview please contact:

Jen Mayville, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext. 228; 905-330-0172 (cell); jmayville@environmentaldefence.ca

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