Nature Canada

Invasives still invading, says federal Environment Commissioner  

Next to habitat loss, invasive species are the biggest threat to Canada’s wildlife and ecosystems. The number of aquatic species at risk has been climbing for decades, and invasive species are a key reason for the increase. The federal Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations now lists about 174 invasive species.

On April 2, Julie Gelfand, Canada’s Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development, reported her audit examining how well Canada is doing in addressing the threat posed by aquatic invasives such as Asian Carp, Zebra Mussels and Round Goby.

Gelfand found that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not taken the steps required to prevent invasive species from being established in Canadian waters (with the exception of Asian Carp).  The federal Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations have been poorly enforced and there is a lack of early response capacity with respect to aquatic invasives other than Asian Carp.

Gelfand’s report follows up on previous report by her predecessor Commissioners in 2002 and 2008.  The 2002 audit found that the “federal government has not responded effectively to invasive species that threaten Canada’s ecosystems . . . “.  The 2008 status report found that “Fisheries and Oceans Canada has made unsatisfactory progress in implementing our 2002 recommendations.”

Invasive species can have huge adverse economic as well as ecological effects.  For example, Zebra Mussel clogging of water intakes and outfalls cost Ontario Power Generation $1.5 million annually for two nuclear power plants alone according to the 2002 report.

Gelfand’s 2019 report found that “Fisheries and Oceans Canada had not determined which species and pathways posed the greatest threats . . . and it had not determined which species were the most important to regulate.” “Fisheries and Oceans Canada did not distinguish its responsibilities with regard to aquatic invasive species from those of the provinces and territories

Gelfand’s key recommendation this year, already accepted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is that the department should “develop and implement a coherent approach to determine which biological and socio-economic risk assessments are needed and conduct them” Fisheries and Oceans Canada received substantial new federal funding in 2017 to fight invasions by Asian Carp and other aquatic invasives.  No more excuses for inaction please.

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