Conservation officers in Toronto have caught two male grass carp – and the hunt is on for more.
The goal is to catch them all. The fear is that the findings symbolize an invasion.
For those who don’t realize the significance, here’s why it’s a big deal: Asian carp are pretty much seen as the killers of native aquatic species and as such pose a huge ecological threat.
Both fish were found in ponds at Tommy Thompson park, near the city’s waterfront, on Monday and Tuesday. They’re not small creatures either; the larger fish was over a metre long and weighed almost 40 pounds.
Both fish are grass carp, invasive bottom-feeders who are members of the Asian carp family. The fish are native to China and were initially introduced to the U.S. and Europe to tackle aquatic weeds. The problem is that they’ve now made their way through waterways in the Midwest at such a rate that they’re now seen as a major threat to our precious great lakes.
If the carp set up home in the lakes, their constant feeding on aquatic species will dwindle the food supply for native species to eat. The species is known to eat up to 20 per cent of their body weight in plankton each day. Both commercial and recreational fishing could become a thing of the past if the ecosystems of the Great Lakes are devastated.
Because the carp are a particularly reproductive species, the threat of an invasion is a very serious one. Once an invasive species claim a body of water, it’s difficult to eliminate completely.
As of right now, however, a federal health official promises that there is no reason to panic and that there’s no evidence that this is an invasion.
“No one should panic. I’m not panicking. There is no evidence that there is an invasion. We are dealing with just two fish,” Becky Cudmore, the Asian carp program manager at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters, a laboratory run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Burlington told the Toronto Star.
She said that any other carp in the area – if any – will be found. The good news is that there is no evidence of any breeding or spawning behaviour.
What is not yet known is whether the carp had been living in Canadian waters for a while or have come from the U.S. The two now dead fish will be sent south of the border for testing.
As you may recall, this isn’t the first time that grass carp have been found in the provinces waterways. Since 2012, when Fisheries and Oceans Canada began its Asian carp program, three live specimens have been caught. They were, however, not fertile.
Earlier this summer, government officials in the U.S. announced a plan to spend nearly $60 million US over the next two years in a mission to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. Here in Canada, the sightings of the Asian grass carp have prompted the what’s being called “the biggest response in Canada to date” from Fisheries and Oceans Canada against the invasive species, as they scour the waterfront area for more culprits.