Quebec government concerned by presence of Asian carp in St. Lawrence River

Quebec’s wildlife ministry says it is “very worried” about the presence of Asian carp, a harmful species of fish, in some Quebec waterways.

Wildlife Ministry ‘very worried’ about harmful fish, which destroys ecosystems where it lives

Asian carp is an invasive species of fish that out-eats other species, making it difficult for native species to survive. (CBC)

Quebec's Wildlife Ministry says it is "very worried" about the presence of Asian carp, a harmful species of fish, in some Quebec waterways.

The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks confirms that the fish, which is destructive to the ecosystems in which it settles, has arrived in the St. Lawrence River.

Julie Grignon, who speaks for the ministry, told Radio-Canada that the grass carp has been found in the St. Lawrence and its nearby waterways. One was caught near Contrecoeur, Que., on the South Shore.

The grass carp is one of four types of Asian carp.

Accidentally released into the Mississippi River 30 years ago, the Asian carp have been heading north ever since. It is a species that is extraordinarily adaptable: aside from being a very good swimmer and avoiding nets, it out-eats other species and tilts the food chain in its favour, making it difficult for native species to survive.

"Asian carps cause major impacts on all the environments they settle in. The ministry is very worried about their presence in Quebec waters," Grignon said.

According to the ministry, out of the 110 sites tested in 2015-2016, grass carps were found in at least 16 spots — for two years in a row.

While it seems only the grass carp is present for now, that doesn't mean other types of Asian carp can't invade Quebec's waters, experts warn.

Both the silver carp and the bighead carp are in Lake Michigan. For the time being, a barrier blocks their access.

Fishing industry at risk

The aquatic invasion of Asian carp in Quebec could cause a loss worth millions of dollars to the economy. It could affect commercial and recreational fishing, the government warns.

As a result, the ministry is taking action. As of April 1, it will be prohibited to fish using live bait fish in the province. This is already the case in summer, but the ban would be extended into the other seasons as well. In other jurisdictions, anglers have used invasive species - sometimes inadvertently - as live bait.

The ministry also plans to make recommendations on how to limit the carp's access to the province's inland waters.

About Asian carp:

  • Length: usually between 50 cm -and 90 cm, but in some cases they can be as long as 1.3 m
  • Weight: could weigh more than 50 kg
  • Food: could ingest up to 40 per cent of its body weight
  • Reproduction: can lay up to two million eggs
  • Description: short head, forked tail, brown back, white stomach, gold reflections on the flank

Translated from Radio-Canada by Sabrina Marandola