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article imageOntario takes a stand against invasive species

By Karen Graham     Mar 5, 2014 in Environment
Invasive species control costs the economy of Ontario tens of millions of dollars annually. The impact these foreign invaders make on the ecology and the environment is often irreparable, if not irreversible. Ontario is doing something about the problem.
Ontario has introduced a bill that will be the nation's first stand-alone legislation that would bar invasive species from entry into the environment. The proposed Invasive Species Act, which was introduced in the Ontario legislature February 26, will support early detection, and a rapid response to eradication of these species, as well as prevention.
The legislation will give more comprehensive inspection powers in determining compliance with the act. There will also be a number of enforcement provisions and penalties, allowing inspectors to take samples as well as the power to stop the movement and spread of an invasive species.
The province is facing a serious threat from the Asian Carp and mountain pine beetle, both species not native to the province. Ontario has hundreds of invaders to contend with, most found in southern Ontario. It costs the province between $75 to $91 million annually just to control zebra mussels.
On Tuesday, Ontario's Natural Resources Minister, David Orazietti, addressed the press in Queen's Park, and explained the importance of the proposed legislation, saying it is necessary because the Asian carp is now threatening to enter Ontario's waterways from the United States, where it has already overrun many habitats.
Having a framework in place and plans ready now is prudent in this case, according to Orazietti. Citing the millions of dollars being spent on trying to eradicate the round goby, present in all the Great Lakes, as well as the ash borer and longhorn beetles, the minister said the bill would go a long way in saving the province even more millions of dollars.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), fully supports the legislation. The OFAH already works in partnership with the Natural Resources Ministry to "provide a program of public education and information on invasive species designed to promote early detection of both aquatic and terrestrial invasives, with the aim of preventing their introduction and stopping the spread of these species into sensitive ecosystems.” said OFAH Executive Director Angelo Lombardo.
In 1988, zebra mussels were introduced inadvertently into Lake St. Claire, and since that time have spread throughout the Great Lakes, as well as into many inland lakes, rivers and canals. They have done extensive damage to power plants and municipal water supplies. They have nearly eliminated the native clam population.
Asian carps are another story. In 2004, the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat issued a report called the Risk Assessment for Asian Carps in Canada. According to the report, the biggest problem for the Great Lakes and Canada is the silver carp and the bighead carp. These carp pose a substantial environmental risk to Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie, according to the risk assessments done by Canadian and U.S. scientists.
It is also noted in the report that the Canadian portion of the Great Lakes has a great deal of suitable vegetation, at least five percent, a food source for the Asian carp, and enough rivers for spawning. In determining the probability of successfully becoming established in Canada, the report said the probability of successful colonization and reproduction of the silver carp was considered to be High.
More about Ontario law, Invasive species, Asian carp, Great lakes, standalone act
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