Canada plans to spend $16M to fight Asian carp

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The Canadian government said Tuesday it is investing up to $20 million over five years to expand its program to fight Asian carp, or roughly $16 million U.S. dollars.

The announcement was made by Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister for Democratic Institutions and a member of Parliament for Burlington, which hosts the laboratory that performs research and other activities aimed at preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

The investment would continue prevention efforts through partnering and early warning surveillance.

The capture of an adult silver carp in a Chicago waterway near Lake Michigan last year caused alarm because it eluded the network of electric barriers designed to stop the progression of Asian carp, an invasive species that have infested Mississippi River waterways.

Silver carp are among four types of Asian carp that could disrupt aquatic food chains and the $7 billion fishing industry in the five freshwater lakes.

The Canadian program performs early detection sampling at more than 32 locations in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes basin. Since sampling began in 2012, no bighead, silver or black carp have been captured in Canada.

The program’s expansion will include more staff to visit more sites, improve response preparedness and to conduct more enforcement and outreach activities, said Vance Chow, a spokesman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“The Government of Canada remains committed to ensuring that we take all possible measures to protect our treasured Great Lakes,” Gould said in a statement.

Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, who chairs the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, praised the investment.

“Protecting the Great Lakes is a goal shared by both the United States and Canada. Today’s announcement further strengthens this shared commitment by preserving both the economy and the ecology of the Great Lakes,” said Huizenga, a Republican who co-chairs the bipartisan Great Lakes Task Force.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said protecting the Great Lakes from threats such as Asian carp is a priority shared by both the U.S. and Canada.

“This important investment from Canada will help us keep Asian carp from harming our Great Lakes. We need to continue to act with urgency to address this serious threat,” said Stabenow, who also co-chairs the Great Lakes Task Force.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, described the investment as “welcome news.”

“I know from conversations I have had with Canadian officials that they are equally committed to protecting our Lakes and keeping the carp out,” said Kaptur, who also co-chairs the Great Lakes Task Force.

“Let’s hope the Trump administration takes notice of Canada’s commitment, and we can get full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2018 and beyond, and quick action on the Brandon Road Study’s recommendations to stop this harmful invasive species from devastating our Great Lakes.”

Dominic LeBlanc, the Canadian minister of fisheries and oceans, said the effort is intended to protect the health of Canadian waterways and its multibillion-dollar recreational and commercial fisheries.

While Canada’s Asian carp program is run out of the Burlington lab, staff go all over the Canadian Great Lakes for monitoring by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which is performed targeting all potential life stages, Chow said.

The main equipment used to target adult fish include electrofishing and trammel netting, which is a type of gill net, he said.

Bipartisan members of Congress this month wrote to the Canadian minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, in support of a proposal to establish a Canadian program similar to the U.S. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The GLRI provides federal funds toward restoring ecosystems, redeveloping waterfronts and other cleanup efforts, as well as battling the advancement of Asian carp.

The lawmakers said the program’s impact could be “amplified and leveraged by a Canadian strategy for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence investments.”

The letter was led by Huizenga and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who also co-chairs the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.

Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters also signed on, as well as seven members of the state’s House delegation.