Invasive Species: Asian Carp Q&A
To wrap up our blog post series in partnership with the Invasive Species Centre we wanted to have an honest conversation on some of the questions that anglers & boaters have about the topic. After discussing with our followers, colleagues, and others in the industry we compiled a list of questions that everyone wants & needs to know!
Whats the difference between our native carp species and the Asian Carp?
Although invasive and native to Asia, Common Carp is not considered one of the four Asian carps. Common Carp were introduced to North American from non-native populations in Europe in the 1800s and are now widley distributed throughout eastern North America. Common Carp have been established in North America for over 100 years and do not need to be removed or reported if seen. Common Carp can be easily confused with Grass Carp, one of the four species of Asian carps. Two features that differentiate Common Carp from Grass Carp are the presence of whisker-like appendages called barbels near the corners of the mouth and a long dorsal fin that runs down the back half of their body. Grass Carp LACK barbels and have a SHORT dorsal fin. (I have attached a graphic you can add with this post if youd like comparing the two species).
What is the main route for invasive species entering Ontario? Why can't we stop them there with nets, routine electroshocking, or other means?
The species we should be most concerned with is Grass Carp. Grass Carp were stocked for vegetation control in the United States. Lots of states made the stocking of Grass Carp completely illegal, where some can only stock sterile fish, and others can stock both fertile and sterile fish. Stocking regulations vary by state. This has lead to a population establishing in two U.S. tributaries of Lake Erie in the Sandusky and Maumee River. DFO does extensive early detection surveillance work. The MNRF conducts environmental DNA sampling to search for the presence of Asian carps DNA in water bodies. States surrounding the Great Lakes also conduct monitoring and surveillance work. Research by multiple groups is being done to learn more about these species and new techniques to prevent their establishment in the Great Lakes. The Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) is the largest known connection between the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes. There is an electric barrier located near Romeoville, Illinois to prevent the movement of fish above and bellow the barrier. The barriers send an electric current through the water, discouraging fish from passing through. These techniques are continously being researched to learn about the best methods for stopping the species from establishing in Ontario.
Is there any commercial value is Asian Carp? Can we harvest them in high numbers to help eliminate them? What if we net as they enter spawning areas or block of spawning areas?
There are currently no established populations of Asian carps in Canadian waters, so this is not something we have to deal with nor do we hope we ever have to deal with! In places such as Illinois where Asian carps are present in such high numbers, they have to resort to different options in removing the large biomass, including encouraging consumption. For us in Canada, these fish are not established here and it would not be desirable to create a market for these fish when they are not here and our goal is not never have to consider something like this as an option, as we hope to prevent them from ever establishing! These fish are also very bony, so not desirable to eat. In terms of angling, these fish do not make good angling species due to their diets.
What is currently being done in areas where reports have been to eliminate the population?
When a Grass Carp is caught in Canadian waters, a response is triggered. Any Grass Carp that are caught are sent to the DFO lab for further analysis to learn about the fish history. This allows DFO and their partners to take action to help reduce or eliminate the threat. Fertility gets checked first because a fertile fish will pose a much greater threat because they can reproduce and lead to established populations that can spread, where as sterile fish will cause damage over their lifetime, but not beyond. DFO may respond, alongside MNRF, by sending out crews to the area in which the Grass Carp was caught in order to search for more and eliminate the threat.
What is the single most important thing anglers can do to help?
Anglers are often the first set of eyes on the water. Learning how to identify and report Asian carps is a very important tool in prevention. We currently have a Grass Carp identification and reporting guide that walks through step by step instructions on what to do if you think you have seen or caught a Grass Carp. The first step would be to ensure the fish matches ALL of the features of a Grass Carp. If it does, take photos of the fish from multiple angles and note your geographic location. Next is to report it to the Invading Species Hotline (1-800-563-7711) or report to EDDMaps.org. If you are unable to reach someone directly, kill the fish without damaging its head or eyes. Gut the fish and keep it in a cooler, with its head above ice. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will come and collect it. I have attached a copy of the reporting guide and here is a link to the reporting guide: https://www.asiancarp.ca/grass-carp-identification-and-reporting-guide/
Over the past few decade we have seen a number of invasive species enter the great lakes. Some bad and others even with some benefits to fish populations. How do you know what the impact will be with these species and other invasive species?
To understand what kind of impact a species can cause, risk assessments are often done to do this. Risk assessments identify, evaluate and estimate the level of risk of a potential invasive species. They are an important tool in invasive species management, and are used to inform, prevent, prioritize, and respond. You can find a database of risk assessments for different species here: https://www.invasivespeciescentre.ca/invasive-species/what-is-at-risk/invasive-species-risk-assessment/
For Asian carps specific risk assessments, you can find them here: https://www.asiancarp.ca/impacts/risk-assessments/
We would like to thank the Invasive Species Centre for reaching out to us for this opportunity to partner and help spread the word to anglers on what we can do to help protect our most prized resource over the past season. We look forward to working together in the future and with all of you on this most important mission. For any and all invasive species question be sure to reach out to them at https://www.invasivespeciescentre.ca/
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