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Archived - Brief History Of Asian Carp Initiatives In Canada

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July, 2014


Asian carps are introduced to North America. The four species of Asian carp include Bighead, Silver, Grass and Black. In the southern United States, most are brought in for use in the aquaculture industry. In Canada, Grass and Bighead carps are imported for the live food fish industry.

Flooding in the southern United States in the 1970s and onward may have resulted in Asian carp moving beyond their contained environments into open freshwater water systems. Adapting quickly to the natural environment, two of the Asian carp species, Bighead and Silver carps (together termed Bigheaded carps) begin migrating northward through the Mississippi Basin.


Receding waters after a major flood event in Illinois provides the first warning that Asian carps are invading these aquatic environments. Of the many dead fish specimens that lay on the shores of the receding rivers, most are Asian carps, outnumbering local species by a factor of nine to one. 

2003 - 2004

Canada participates in two Asian carp summits held in Chicago to consider strategies to prevent the introduction of Asian carps into Lake Michigan.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducts a science-based risk assessment study to evaluate the likelihood of arrival, survival, reproduction spread and impact of Asian carps, should they be introduced into Canadian aquatic environments. The study concludes that the risk of impact is high in most parts of Canada, including the southern Great Lakes basin.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada Science staff begin their participation in the development of the U.S. Asian Carp Control and Management Plan, and in a prevention subgroup.


As a result of the risk assessment, the Province of Ontario modifies regulations to ban the sale or possession of live Asian carps.


Canada initiates “border blitzes”, inspections of shipments coming into Canada by road and air, searching for live fishes, including Asian carps. Fisheries and Oceans Canada experts work with border officers to provide identification training, equipment and protocols. Soon after, several land shipments of live Asian carps are intercepted by border and provincial wildlife officials, with charges laid and convictions imposed. 


During the summer, Asian carp DNA is found 10 kilometres from Lake Michigan, indicating that Asian carps are much closer to the Great Lakes than previously thought. The key control mechanism used in that waterway is a series of electrical barriers that require ongoing maintenance to ensure their effectiveness and longer-term operation. During a scheduled shutdown for routine maintenance, Canada contributes equipment and expertise toward containment efforts in Illinois to prevent Asian carps from passing through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal into the Great Lakes.


The Province of British Columbia bans the possession and sale of Asian carps.

The Honorable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announces the launch of the Great Lakes Bi-national Ecological Risk Assessment of Asian Carp to identify likely routes where Silver Carp and Bighead Carp could enter, and to pinpoint key areas within the basin most vulnerable to invasion and impact.  Led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and coordinated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the study is co-authored, and subsequently peer-reviewed, by Canadian and American experts.


The Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada conduct mock table-top exercises to test Ontario’s Asian carp rapid response framework and communication systems.


The Honorable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, announces significant new federal funding to be allocated over five years towards four key activities: prevention, early warning, rapid response, and management and control.  Based on the funding, Fisheries and Oceans Canada initiates the development of a new Asian Carp program.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources officially sign on as members of the US-led Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

The Fisheries and Oceans Canada-led Bi-national Ecological Risk Assessment of Bigheaded Carps for the Great Lakes Basin is completed.  Results provide scientifically defensible, peer-reviewed advice for determining best courses of action by both countries to reduce the probability of introduction of these species into the Great Lakes.


Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirms two separate captures of live Grass Carp, both near Dunnville, Ontario in the Grand River near Lake Erie. Response activities are undertaken by both Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Both Canadian specimens are confirmed to be sterile, leading to the conclusion that they were likely aquaculture escapees.

The same year, the United States Geological Survey published a report showing evidence of reproducing Grass Carp in the Sandusky River in Ohio, a river that empties into Lake Erie.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada begins work to assess the ecological risk of Grass Carp establishment in the Great Lakes.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada researchers in Burlington also begin developing and testing new methods of controlling the movements of live fish using sound and water pressure curtains. Native fish that share similar behavior to Asian carp are used for testing purposes.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers submits a report to the U.S. Congress outlining alternatives to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from transferring between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. The report includes a comprehensive range of options and technologies available, along with estimates costs. According to the report, any impacts to Canada, even relatively minor ones, may require coordination with Canada.

Ontario proposes the Invasive Species Act to support the prevention, early detection, rapid response and eradication of invasive species in the province.

Quebec joins the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada completes construction of a new Asian Carp laboratory in Burlington, Ontario at the Canadian Centre for Inland Waters. A second Fisheries and Oceans Canada laboratory in Winnipeg is enhanced to conduct eDNA analyses.

News release: Harper Government opens Asian Carp Science Lab

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