There are invaders that lurk in our waters, on our boats, and can even be found on our angling equipment. ‘What are they?’ you may be asking. Aquatic invasive species of all shapes and sizes that arrive, survive, and then thrive in our ecosystems. These invaders, once established in our waterbodies, can transform our favourite lakes, streams, and rivers into an entirely different ecosystem, or displace the species we depend on for our recreational activities or our livelihoods.
Who are these invaders and why are they a problem? They are plants, animals, and micro-organisms introduced by human action outside their natural, past, or present distribution. Once established, these invaders can cause significant damage to the environment, the economy, and society, including human health. The ecological effects of invasive species are often irreversible and once established, they are extremely difficult and costly to control or eradicate. Some common aquatic invaders known to Ontarians include zebra mussels and the round goby. Whether it be zebra mussels stuck to your boat hull or dock, or catching multiple round gobies while at your favourite fishing spot, aquatic invasive species continue to be a nuisance for anglers, boaters, and all those who encounter them in one way or another.
Today, there is a new set of invaders threatening Ontario’s Great Lakes. These invaders are the Asian carps: Bighead, Black, Grass, and Silver carp. You may have heard of them, or even seen videos of the Silver carp online or through your local news. These are the fish that jump from the water when they sense the vibrations from a boat’s motor. Asian carps were brought to the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s for aquaculture purposes and following flooding events, they escaped into the Mississippi River basin. The fish quickly established and began spreading north towards the Great Lakes. Currently, there are electrical barriers in place to prevent their spread into the Great Lakes—if you’re interested in more information on their arrival, dispersal, and biology, visit www.invadingspecies.com or www.asiancarp.ca.
If Asian carps were to become established in Ontario waters, they would compete with our native fish, driving them out of their habitat. The decline of native fish species could damage sport and commercial fisheries in Ontario, which brings in millions of dollars each year into the province’s economy. Besides Asian carps and the many other aquatic invasive species threatening to establish themselves in our waters, water soldier is an aquatic invader both boaters and anglers should be aware of. This plant was introduced to Ontario through the water garden or aquarium trade and was first discovered in 2008 in the Trent River, east of Peterborough, Ontario. This plant impedes recreational activities, such as boating, angling, and swimming by creating dense floating mats as well as possessing sharp serrated leaf edges that can cut swimmers.
New Regulations Are a Good Thing
There is some good news on the horizon in terms of combatting invasive species in Ontario. On November 3rd, 2015 the Invasive Species Act received royal assent. Bill Mauro, the minister of Natural Resources and Forestry stated that by passing the Invasive species Act, Ontario is “taking further action to protect communities from the significant social, economic, and ecological impacts of invasive species.” The legislation will support the prevention, early detection, rapid response, and eradication of invasive species, such as giant hogweed and northern snakehead. In addition to these, the Act will also:
- Give Ontario the tools to ban the possession and transportation of certain invasive species.
- Allow for earlier intervention and rapid response to keep invasive species from spreading, for example, by preventing the movement of contaminated firewood.
- Help ensure compliance through modernized inspection and enforcement measures.
(Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, 2015)
Overall, this is a significant achievement and “Ontario is proud to be the first and only jurisdiction in Canada to enact standalone invasive species legislation,” said Bill Mauro, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. In addition, Matt DeMille, the manager of Fish and Wildlife Services at the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters stated, “we support the Invasive Species Act, but in order to make it as successful as possible, we need to make sure that the implementation is well thought out, adequately funded, and empowers the public to make a difference.”
Here’s How You Can Help
So, how can you, as a member of the public, help to prevent the spread of these aquatic invasive species into our waters?
Recreational boaters and anglers have vital roles to play in preventing the spread of all aquatic invasive species. For example, Eurasian watermilfoil can easily hitch a ride via your boat or trailer from one infested waterbody to another un-infested waterbody. Therefore, we recommend that once you have removed your boat from the water, that you follow our Clean, Drain, Dry protocols. Make sure you begin by cleaning off any visible mud, vegetation, mussels, and anything else suspicious from your boat, motor, trailer, or any fishing equipment you may have. Following this, drain standing water from your boat by pulling the plug from your transom and live-wells, as well as emptying any water in your bilge pumps. Make sure your motor is drained of any water and once you are home, it is a good practice to flush your motor’s cooling system to ensure that no microscopic invasive species are still alive inside the water lines. We also recommend that you wash or dry your boat, fishing tackle, downriggers, trailer, and other boating equipment to kill harmful species that were not visible at the boat launch. Some aquatic invasive species can survive more than two weeks out of water, therefore, it is important to try to:
- Rinse your boat and equipment with hot water (>50°C).
- Spray your boat and trailer with high pressure water (>250 psi).
- Dry your boat, equipment and trailer in the sun between two and seven days before transporting them to another waterbody.
- Remember! Do not be put off by the steps in Clean, Drain, Dry—it really is simple and will only take a few moments for you to protect the waters we all love and depend on.
Besides implementing the steps involved in Clean, Drain, Dry, a key step in preventing the spread of invasive species from one waterbody to another is tracking their spread. If you come across what you suspect may be an invasive species in your travels, we ask that you take some clear photographs, write down all pertinent information (location, time of day, key features of suspected invader, etc.) and make a report to our Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711, by email to email@example.com, or online at www.eddmaps.org/ontario. The EDDMapS – Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System – is a FREE online and mobile enabled reporting tool. It is available as a FREE app through the Google Play Store (https://play.google.com/store/search?q=EDDMapS ) or Apple iTunes store (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ontario/id727309669?mt=8)