• Electrofishing for Asian carp in the United States. (Photo: United States Fish and Wildlife Service)

Photo: Electrofishing for Asian carp in the United States. (Photo: United States Fish and Wildlife Service)

In a race to limit expensive environmental damage, Ontario became the first province to introduce its own invasive species legislation.

Spurred by the immediate threat of Asian carp potentially entering the Great Lakes, Ontario introduced its own Invasive Species Act aiming to protect Canada’s natural environment from further destruction by unnatural invaders.

Not only are invasive species a threat to the environment, but the damage they are causing is costing Ontario taxpayers millions.

“The escalating costs to Ontario’s economy and our natural resources is creating this greater sense of urgency to act with more effective tools and mechanisms to deal with invasive species,” says David Orazietti, the Minister of Natural Resources.

The City of Toronto alone spent over $37 million annually attempting to eradicate the emerald ash borer by digging up dead trees destroyed by the green insect and replacing them with new ones.

Zebra mussels eat up $75 to 91 million annually out of Ontario’s budget.

If Asian carp enter the Great Lakes, Orazietti estimates they will cost the recreational fishing industry $2.2 billion.

Orazietti says the new legislation gives Ontario greater abilities to keep this threat out of provincial waters. He says the new law would “require that any Asian carp entering the province be eviscerated.” As well, anyone caught transporting Asian carp could be charged and fined up to $250,000 on the first offence. Corporations could be fined up to $1 million.

British Columbia has lost millions of hectares of pine trees to the mountain pine beetle, and spent approximately $917 million in its attempt to eradicate the species, a precedent Orazietti wants to avoid in Ontario.

“At present, we’re faced with working through twenty or so odd pieces of legislation to this issue that has developed over a number of years,” Orazietti says. “This new legislation gives us the ability to develop regulations that are more flexible to respond directly to threats of invasive species in Ontario.”

Orazietti adds that all levels of government need to be active. “We can’t be working in silos. There needs to be an effective sharing of information and resources to develop the technologies and approaches to early detect and eradicate these species.”

Video showing Asian carp jumping out of the water and into a passing motor boat.