Invasive species — plants and animals introduced into Ontario from other places — have altered the Great Lakes ecosystem and the way we all interact with the lakes. They’ve changed the type of fish you’re most likely to catch, where you can swim and boat and where you cannot, the clarity of the water, and the plants you see on the shore.
And it’s more than just an aesthetic change. Invasives have had far reaching impacts on people and communities that rely on the lakes for food, water, and recreation, and have been especially damaging to those depending on the lakes for their livelihoods.
Today, thanks to climate change, and more international trade which are opening up new doorways for invasive species, Ontario’s local environment is increasingly susceptible to the establishment and spread of aquatic, insect, plant and other invasive species.
Once a new species is established and reproducing, it’s nearly impossible to control their spread. That’s why it’s so important for governments to have the powers they need to prevent species from invading in the first place and to react quickly at the first sign of new introductions.
One particular invasive species that Environmental Defence has highlighted is the Asian carp. While not yet established in the Great Lakes, these fish pose an enormous threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem, and the province’s $2.2 billion recreational fishing industry.
Ontario introduced new legislation today that, if passed, would be an important step in improving the province’s response to invasive species and protecting the Great Lakes from threats like Asian carp. The Invasive Species Act would create:
- greater controls on species that have the potential to do much damage to Ontario’s biodiversity;
- stronger tools that help officials conduct investigations and enforce the law; and
- tough penalties and significant fines for those not following the law.
For the new legislation to be successful at controlling the introduction and spread of invasive species, the government will need to contribute new funding and staff to ensure that the words in the Act are translated into action on the ground. It also means creating effective action plans, and expanding cooperation between provincial ministries and federal governments.
Environmental Defence is excited about this bill and we will work to ensure that it includes strong provisions that will be effective at preventing the introduction of new invasive species in order to protect Ontario’s important ecosystems. You can also help by asking for similar action at the federal level with our Asian carp petition.