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Legislation for Aquatic Invasive Species

There are over 30 Federal and Ontario provincial Acts that mention invasive species that are either intentionally or incidentally introduced. Only a few of these are relevant to aquatic invasive species, and even fewer (4) that specifically mention Asian carps. Some of this legislation has a directed focus on aquatic invasive species, however, “mostly, they are treated as one issue among many targeted by legislation that deals more broadly with issues such as environmental protection and sustainability.” [A.L. Smith et.al 2014]

Roles and Responsibilities

  • The federal government has responsibility for controlling the entry of invasive species into Canada and their inter-provincial movement along with delivery of various certification and inspection programs [An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Canada 2004].

  • Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the management, eradication, containment, and control of established and spreading invaders. There are also a range of economic activities and trade pathways which could act as routes of introduction for invasive species which are under the umbrella of provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

  • Also, federal and provincial governments share responsibilities for invasive species affecting certain economic sectors, for example, sea coast and inland fisheries and shipping are regulated by federal authorities while management and licensing of freshwater fishery resources are under provincial jurisdiction.

  • Aboriginal governments are empowered under the Indian Act to make bylaws related to noxious weeds, and the protection of fish and wildlife.

  • Municipalities play an important role in the management of invasive species through the detection of new introductions and the management of new and established invaders. They also contribute through the development and application of local invasive species management strategies.

Federal Acts, Regulations and Strategies

The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy [Canadian Biodiversity Strategy - Canada’s Response to the Convention on Biological Diversity] was developed by the Government of Canada in 1995 to address the impacts to ecosystems and genetic diversity due to a growing human population and resource consumption. It was felt that the global decline of biodiversity is one of the most serious environmental issues facing humanity. The main objectives of the Strategy are to conserve biodiversity and sustain biological resources. There is specific mention under section E. Biosafety: Harmful Alien Organisms, regarding species that enter ecosystems beyond their natural range through deliberate or inadvertent introduction by humans. The Strategic Directions (1.8) discuss actions to “Take all necessary steps to prevent the introduction of harmful alien organisms and eliminate or reduce their adverse effects to acceptable levels.”

Image of a road sign that says 'Canada'

The newly developed federal Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations [Fisheries and Oceans Canada] were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on June 17th, 2015. These Regulations are designed to address the risks associated with aquatic invasive species (AIS) in Canada. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the responsibility to protect fish and their habitat under the Fisheries Act. As part of A Canadian Action Plan to Address the Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has developed the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations under the Fisheries Act.

These Regulations provide federal and provincial governments with the range of tools needed to prevent the introduction of AIS into Canada, to respond to an invasion, and to manage the spread of established AIS. The Regulations prohibit the import, possession, transport and release of species that pose a significant risk in specific geographic areas and under specific conditions.Image of a net full of fishImport controls of ‘significant risk’ species are a fundamental feature of the Regulations as they address an existing gap in aquatic invasive species legislation in Canada. Import prohibitions are needed to facilitate enforcement at a controlled point, i.e. the Canadian border, which would prevent the entry of high risk species into Canada instead of relying on possession prohibitions within specific provinces. The Regulations impose Canada wide restrictions for the Asian carp species, regarding a prohibition against importation, possession, transportation and release into Canada unless they are eviscerated (gutted). An exemption has been included for the use of triploid (sterile) Grass Carp in Lethbridge, Alberta under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act where the fish are used for vegetation control purposes only. The Regulations do prevent Lethbridge College from selling sterile Grass Carp in the live food market and from expanding the sale of these fish into other provinces.

Image of a fish being pulled out of the water by its lower lip

The Fisheries Act (2015) is the federal Act guiding fisheries and ensuring the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries in Canada. Recent changes to the federal Fisheries Act, allow the development of regulations to address aquatic invasive species.

Ontario Acts, Regulations and Agreements

The proposed Ontario Invasive Species Act, was originally introduced in 2014 by Honorable David Orazietti as Bill 167. It has since been reintroduced in November 2014 as Bill 37, as an act to support prevention, early detection, rapid response and eradication of invasive species in Ontario. The Bill underwent its second reading in the Ontario Legislation in May 2015. The outline of the Bill is that it “enacts the Invasive Species Act, 2014. It sets out a legislative framework that provides for the identification of invasive species that threaten Ontario’s natural environment, including mechanisms for detecting the appearance of invasive species and bringing them within the legislative framework as quickly as possible after they first appear. The Bill also contains a comprehensive array of inspection powers, minister powers and other provisions that are intended to prevent invasive species from entering Ontario, to control the spread of invasive species in Ontario and to remove and eradicate the invasive species from Ontario.” [Bill 37 – An Act Respecting Invasive Species, MNRF]. It also allows the Minister to declare a temporary order in the circumstance of emerging invasive species threats and gives inspectors certain powers for enforcement. The Bill allows the Minister to enter into partnerships with other parties e.g. First Nations to assess, detect, eradicate, monitor or research invasive species to prevent, respond and incorporate into education plans.

Image of a Grass Carp under a net in the sand

The Ontario Fishery Regulations (OFR), 2007 as part of the Canadian Fisheries Act, are administered by the provincial government to deal with fish management in Ontario. The OFR regulate the movement of live fishes (except bait fishes), the release of live fishes into water bodies, and the transport of crayfish overland. The OFR establish a list of acceptable baitfish species and a list of live invasive fishes prohibited for possession (nine invasive species are listed as of 2015). Under the OFR, the import of live fishes into Ontario for use as bait is prohibited. The release of live bait and the dumping of buckets used to hold them is prohibited into or within 30 metres of any waters. Invasive or live fishes that are not listed as baitfish species cannot be used as bait in Ontario. The list only regulates the possession of live invasive fishes, not their import. There are no definitions within the Act for “live” or “dead”. Therefore fishes such as Asian carps which can survive out of water for long periods may remain alive if they are simply dewatered and iced, without evisceration (gutting).

Multiparty Agreements

Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, 2014 
This Agreement is a collaboration between the Ontario and Canadian governments with the goal to “restore, protect and conserve Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health in order to assist in achieving the vision of a healthy, prosperous and sustainable region for present and future generations.” It is a commitment to work together around the Great Lakes in a cooperative manner to achieve this vision. The Agreement establishes principles, common priorities, goals, results and commitments for the restoration, protection and conservation of the Great Lakes. It also commits to reporting on the progress being made in achieving the goals in alignment with the three-year binational reporting schedule established under the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Underwater image of vegetation and fish

Annex 6 (contained in Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health) 
The purpose of this Annex is “to ensure cooperative and coordinated efforts to reduce the threat of aquatic invasive species to Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health”. The Annex describes these efforts and includes goals and commitments to develop rules and standards that can be applied by industry and the public to address ballast water, potential new AIS and AIS pathways, reduce the spread of existing AIS, and facilitate early detection and rapid response.