'We need everybody's help': Officials ask anglers to report Asian carp sightings

The Invasive Species Centre, through the Asian Carp Canada program, is asking the public to report any sightings of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

They say this is currently the highest priority invasive species issue in the Great Lakes for Canada

The Invasive Species Centre held an information session to educate the public about Asian carp and its growing threat to the Great Lakes. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Officials at the Invasive Species Centre are asking the public for help to identify and locate Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

Commercial fishermen, anglers, cottage owners and boaters have been asked to actively search for the invasive fish while out on the waterways. 

Why are Asian carp so dangerous?

  • Outcompete native species and decimate food supply, like eating aquatic plants.
  • Consume up to 40 per cent of their body weight each day.
  • Can grow more than 25 centimetres in their first year.
  • Can weigh up to 40 kilograms and be more than one metre long.
  • Rapidly reproduce.

According to Becky Cudmore, regional manager of the Aquatic Invasive Species Program at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the Asian carp are an imminent threat. 

"We really feel like they're starting to come through the door and we need everybody's help to try and shut that door," said Cudmore.

Thirty Asian carp have been found since 2005, although none have been found in 2019. If Asian carp make it into the Great Lakes, the DFO said it will cost about $13 billion a year, including job losses.

Too little too late

Some commercial fishermen, like Tim Purdy, worry it's too late to stop the fish from getting into the Great Lakes. Purdy caught two Asian carp in traps on Lake Huron in the last year. 

"You keep hearing about it, but when it's actually at your back door, you can see them ... it's a bit scary," said Purdy. 

Tim Purdy, a commercial fisherman, caught two grass carp and reported it. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Purdy said DFO had previously told them what to look for. Once he caught the fish, he called the Ministry of Natural Resources and the fish were shipped for analysis.

"We're reacting too late," said Purdy. "We're playing catch up."

While public attention has proven useful in the past, shoreline angler Chris Jakob doesn't think asking the public to help is the answer. 

"We're already dealing with high water and nobody wants that ... now with this?" said Jakob, who attended a Monday night information meeting at Point Pelee National Park to get more details on what's expected of him. 

"They're not really giving us much on what the public should do. I just hope [the Asian carp] don't come."

Don't throw back caught Asian carp

Asian carp are illegal to possess and shouldn't be thrown back if caught — instead, report the catch to the Ministry of Natural Resources or the DFO and follow instructions on how to dispose of the fish. It is against the law to keep Asian carp as pets or use as bait. 


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