Asian carps is the collective term that refers to four species of carp:

These four species are part of the cyprinid family and  are related to several varieties of minnows. They are all native to the rivers, reservoirs and lakes of China and southern Russia. 

Introduction

Asian carps were introduced to the Southern U.S. in the late 1960’s and 1970’s for use as biological control in aquaculture facilities based on their specific diets. Flooding events allowed at least three of the four species (Bighead, Silver, and Black carps) to escape these facilities and eventually make their way into the Mississippi River Basin. The spread of Grass Carp has largely been the result of stocking for the purposes of aquatic vegetation control.

Establishment 

Silver and Bighead carps have established populations throughout the Mississippi River Basin and are now in the Illinois Waterway and within striking distance of Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. Black carp are spreading towards the Illinois River, recent evidence has found natural reproduction of Grass Carp in two U.S. tributaries of Lake Erie, which is an immediate threat to Lake Erie. 

There are currently no established populations of Asian carps in the Great Lakes.

Impacts

These fish are of concern because of the damage they could cause to Canada’s ecological, recreational and economic environments if they established in the Great Lakes.  In the absence of adequate prevention, it is predicted that Asian carp will eventually reach the Great Lakes. 

  • Asian carp prefer cold or moderate water temperatures, like that of the Great Lakes, and they reproduce quickly.
  • Asian carps can consume up to 40% of their body weight in food each day, grow more than 25 cm during their first year, and reach a weight of 40 kg and a length of more than one meter once they have reached maturity .
  • Bighead carp and Silver carp feed on plankton, which constitute the very base of the food chain in the aquatic environment, and spread very quickly.
  • The vibrations in the water excite Silver carp, which causes them to jump out of the water at a height of up to three meters (nine feet). Due to the vibrations caused by the propellers of the boats, the silver carp has become a danger for boaters and water skiers; these carp have already caused serious injuries in recreational users.

Asian carps are introduced to North America for use in the aquaculture industry. The four species of Asian carp are bighead carp, black carp, reed carp and silver carp. In Canada, bighead carp and reed carp are imported and used as live food for the fishing industry.
Asian carp may have escaped from the containment basins and started to invade freshwater systems following flooding in the southern United States in the 1970s and later. Adapting quickly to the natural environment, two species of Asian carp, the bighead carp and the silver carp (together called bighead carp) begin their migration north by the Mississippi basin.

After a major flood in the Illinois River region and the subsequent recession of the waters, dead Asian carp are nine times more numerous on the banks than all the native fish. This is a warning that Asian carp have invaded the area, and authorities are realizing that this is a significant problem.

Canada is participating in two Asian carp summits held in Chicago to propose strategies to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is conducting a risk assessment to determine the likelihood of Asian carp arriving in Canadian waters, surviving there, breeding there, spreading there and the impact this could have on Canadian waters. The study found that the risk is high in most parts of Canada, including the southern Great Lakes basin.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists are beginning to participate on an ongoing basis in the development of the American Asian Carp Control and Management Plan, and to participate in a prevention subgroup.

Based on the risk assessment, Ontario is amending its regulations to prohibit the sale or possession of live Asian carp.

Canada undertakes “lightning” border controls and intercepts several cargoes entering the country by land and air, in which live Asian carp are found. Canadian representatives have since worked with several partner organizations to provide training, provide equipment and establish protocols to facilitate this monitoring.

Asian carp DNA is discovered during surveillance activities in the Chicago sanitary and naval canal, 10 km from Lake Michigan. Big-headed carp are therefore much closer to the Great Lakes basin than previously thought. When decommissioning for routine maintenance of the electrical barriers used to control the movement of fish in this waterway, Canada provides equipment and expertise to assist in containment efforts to prevent the migration of Asian carps to the Great Lakes through the Chicago sanitary and naval channel.

Work begins on a Strategic Action Framework for Asian Carp Control to put in place a series of short-term and long-term measures to limit the spread of bighead carp and carp. to prevent the arrival and establishment of these species in the Great Lakes.

British Columbia prohibits the possession and sale of Asian carps.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada announces the start of the “Binational Ecological Risk Assessment of Big-headed Carp for the Great Lakes Basin”. The report, which describes the likely pathways for the introduction of silver and bighead carp into the Great Lakes, facilitates the development of immediate and effective action against emerging threats to Canadian waters. The study is led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and coordinated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

The provincial government of Ontario and the federal government are working together in simulations to verify the rapid response framework and communication systems of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. These frames are designed to be used in the event that Asian carp are found in the Canadian Great Lakes. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are officially members of the United States-led Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.
The Binational Ecological Risk Assessment of Big-headed Carp for the Great Lakes Basin by Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been completed. The results provide scientifically defensible, peer-reviewed advice to determine the most effective measures that the two countries could take to mitigate the risk of introducing these species to the Great Lakes.

The Government of Canada announces that it will spend $ 17.5 million over the next five years on carp prevention, early warning, response and management Asian. With this funding, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is embarking on the development of a new Asian carp program.

Canada continues to work closely with its American counterparts to develop a comprehensive early warning and surveillance system. “The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world and are one of Canada’s most precious resources. We are committed to working with our American counterparts to continue to protect the Great Lakes basin. Together, these measures will go a long way toward achieving our ultimate goal: preventing Asian carps from entering and settling in the Great Lakes. The Honorable Keith Ashfield, PC, MP

Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirms two separate captures of live reed carp in the Grand River near Lake Erie in the Dunnville area of ​​Ontario. Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are taking action. It is confirmed that the two specimens are sterile, which leads to the conclusion that they are probably fish having been the object of sowing.

The same year, the United States Geological Survey published a report demonstrating the presence of reed carp able to reproduce in the Sandusky River, in Ohio, which flows into Lake Erie.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is undertaking work to assess the ecological risk posed by reed carp in the Great Lakes.
Researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Burlington are also beginning to develop and test new methods to control the movement of live fish using sound barriers and water pressure. Native fish with behavior similar to that of Asian carp are used in the trials.

In the United States, the Army Corps of Engineers is submitting a report to Congress outlining solutions to prevent the migration of Asian carps and other invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi river basins. The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) report presents a wide range of options and technologies, as well as cost estimates. According to the report, any impact on Canada, even a relatively minor one, may require coordination with Canada.

Ontario is introducing the Invasive Species Act to support the early prevention, detection, response and eradication of invasive species in the province.
Quebec becomes a member of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada completes construction of a new Asian carp laboratory at the Canada Center for Inland Waters in Burlington, Ontario. A second Fisheries and Oceans Canada laboratory, located in Winnipeg, is being upgraded to carry out environmental DNA testing.

Although the population of bighead carp in the Mississippi River basin is increasing rapidly in terms of size and range, its rate of expansion is not well understood. In 2006, a study was carried out in the La Grange passage of the Illinois river, where the presence of populations of bighead carp has been documented since 1993. In this study, radio telemetry was used to track the movements of bighead carp in the river. Radio transmitters were surgically implanted in several adult fish in June 2003 and from May to July 2004.

The average movement rate of adult bighead carp was found to be high, more than 1.7 km per day; one of the individuals traveled 163 km in 5 weeks. This shows that the distribution of adult bighead carp can increase rapidly, especially in spring and summer. Downstream travel rates were found to be higher (0.5 km per day) than upstream travel rates. Since no difference was noted between the upstream and downstream movement rates at high river flow and at low river flow, the authors attribute the difference to the fact that the carp swims faster when it follows the flow.