Nova Scotia

Canada says no to Asian carp as lobster bait

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is throwing cold water on the prospect of importing Asian carp from the United States for use as lobster bait.

Invasive species was promoted as cheaper bait source for lucrative fishery

In this June 13, 2012 file photo, Asian carp jolted by an electric current from a research boat jump from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill. (John Flesher/The Associated Press)

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is throwing cold water on the prospect of importing Asian carp from the United States for use as lobster bait.

With bait prices on the rise, the invasive species was promoted as a cheaper bait source for the lucrative fishery.

"The CFIA is aware that the industry has expressed interest in importing Asian carp for bait for the lobster fishery," agency spokesperson Christine Carnaffan said in an email.

But the answer is no, at least for now.

Ineligible for entry

Carnaffan said Asian carp is automatically disallowed under the National Aquatic Animal Health Program, which regulates aquatic animal imports to protect Canada's native marine life from imported diseases.

Carnaffan said specific import conditions must be met to ensure that the commodity has been inspected according to appropriate procedures, is free from aquatic animal diseases and conforms to Canada's phytosanitary regulations.

"These conditions cannot currently be met for exports of Asian carp from the U.S., therefore the product is not eligible for entry into Canada," she wrote.

Complete surprise to Nova Scotia promoter

The position is news to promoter Patrick Swim of lobster.ca, who said he has spent months seeking permits from both countries to import Asian carp from the Illinois River as bait for the lobster fishery in southwest Nova Scotia and Maine.

"It's a complete surprise to me," Swim said.

Swim said he was in touch with a CFIA official as recently as this week and was assured the agency is waiting on U.S. authorities before it evaluates his proposal.

To his knowledge a decision is months away.

Woods Harbour bait dealer Bubbie Nickerson holds an Asian carp. Some people in the Nova Scotia lobster industry are interested in using Asian carp as a source of bait. (Submitted by Patrick Swim)

Swim is not giving up.

"We're steaming ahead," he said. "We're trying to save the fishermen money, give them a bait alternative and it's kind of a scary future two or three years down the road."

He calls the proposal a win-win for both countries.

The idea was endorsed in 2018 by his local MP Bernadette Jordan, a current federal cabinet minister, as a way to protect herring and mackerel — bait fish in decline.

The invasive species

Swim's plan involves silver carp, one of several carp species lumped into a general title of Asian carp.

He said the U.S. government shutdown earlier this year prevented him from getting the sanitary permits needed to move a truck load of carp across the border.

Asian carp was brought to North America in the 1960s and 70s and has since overrun portions of the Mississippi River Basin and are threatening to gain a foothold in the Great Lakes through rivers and canals.

Wedgeport Lobsters, a major southwest Nova Scotia lobster buyer, had confirmed earlier it was interested in Asian carp as an alternative source of bait.

The company declined to comment on the CFIA's position when contacted this week.

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