Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations

About invasive species

Invasive species are plants, animals, and micro-organisms that, when introduced outside of their natural environment, out-compete native species. In Canada, there are hundreds of invasive species including insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, aquatic and terrestrial plants, marine and freshwater fish, algae, fungi, and molluscs. Invasive species generally share common characteristics that can make them difficult to control and contain, including high rates of reproduction, few natural predators and the ability to thrive in different environments.

Invasive species are a serious threat in Canada as once established they can:

Objective of the Regulations

The objective of the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations is to provide a full suite of regulatory tools under the federal Fisheries Act to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species (AIS) into Canadian waters and to control and manage their establishment and spread, once introduced. The Regulations complement existing federal and provincial authorities and bridge gaps within these frameworks to enable a broad range of AIS management activities.

These new Regulations build on the existing legal and institutional frameworks in Canada. The existing framework is often characterized as a "patchwork" regulatory system owing to the use of a myriad of authorities and/or mandates held by federal departments and agencies or provincial and territorial governments that may be applied directly or indirectly to address concerns related to AIS.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is dedicated to ensuring that the Regulations will not unduly restrict activities that benefit our economy, environment or society. Therefore, prior to regulating any additional aquatic species under these Regulations, the Department will consider biological and socio-economic risk assessments of species intended for listing. These will assess the biological and socio-economic threat posed by potential AIS, to inform decision makers of whether a species should be listed or not.

The Regulations aim to accommodate local issues related to AIS, while providing a national framework for managing and controlling AIS in Canada.

Key components of the Regulations

Below is a general description of some of the key elements of the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations. For further details, please see the Regulations as well as the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, available in the Canada Gazette, Part II.

List of Prohibited Species

Prohibitions on import, transport, possession and/or release apply to AIS listed in Part 2 of the Schedule in the Regulations. The Schedule is organized to indicate which prohibitions apply to which species and in what geographic area.

The prohibition against the import of listed AIS into Canada provides a first line of defence to prevent new introductions of AIS, and will be enforced at the Canadian border. The prohibitions on live transport, possession and/or release will also help reduce the incidence of new introductions and spread of listed AIS throughout Canada.

Because Asian carp are especially hardy and able to survive conditions other species could not, these species must be dead and eviscerated in order to be exempted from prohibitions, i.e. importation, possession, transportation in Canada. This additional requirement will facilitate effective inspection and improve enforcement of the prohibitions.

The use of otherwise prohibited species by certain people (e.g., employees of research facilities, zoos or aquariums) is allowed if the purpose of the import, possession, transport or release is for scientific, educational or AIS control purposes. In most cases, this exemption requires that the person hold a valid permit under certain federal or provincial regulations.

The initial listing includes the species below, but new species could be added to the list over time, through regulatory amendment:

Import into Canada Transport, possession, release Region
Asian carps (unless dead and eviscerated):
Grass, Bighead, Silver and Black carps
Invasive fish currently listed in the Ontario Fishery Regulations ON
Prohibited Species currently listed in the Manitoba Fishery Regulations MB
Zebra and Quagga Mussels (except in international transborder waters in QC and parts of ON) Asian carps: Grass, Bighead, Silver, Black carps Canada
Zebra and Quagga Mussels BC, AB, SK, MB

List of Controlled Species

The Regulations also include a list of species that are not prohibited in specific geographic areas, but for which control activities may be undertaken. These species are listed in Part 3 of the Schedule. The Schedule includes an initial list of 14 species, such as tunicates, green crab, and species such as smallmouth bass and walleye which are native to some parts of Canada but are considered invasive elsewhere in the country. DFO risk assessments have indicated that each of the 14 species represents a moderate to high risk to some parts of Canada's aquatic ecosystems.

General Prohibition

In addition to the prohibitions and control activities described above, which would apply only to species listed in Parts 2 and 3 of the Schedule respectively, the Regulations also contain a general prohibition against the introduction of any aquatic species into an area where it is not indigenous without a valid permit or licence.

Control and Eradication

Many activities that could be used to control or eradicate AIS require specific authorization under the Fisheries Act. The Regulations provide for such authorizations, facilitating the use of a wide variety of control and eradication methods for species listed in the Regulations, as well as for any aquatic species where it is not indigenous and may cause harm.

The Regulations facilitate rapid response and AIS control efforts that could involve:

Recognizing that some of these activities have the potential to harm non-target species or habitat, the impacts associated with control and eradication activities, along with alternative measures for addressing the AIS will be considered in order to balance the benefits and harms associated with these activities. Conditions, such as mitigation measures, could also be prescribed to ensure that risks associated with these control activities are minimized.

Enforcement Powers

Under the Regulations, enforcement officials (i.e., Fishery Officers and Fishery Guardians) have the power to enforce the prohibitions on import, possession, transport and release of listed species, as well as the general prohibition on introduction of non-indigenous species. They are also able to take certain actions to control listed species, such as treating or destroying listed organisms and temporarily prohibiting access to areas where the species has been found.

Fishery Officers also have the ability to direct people to cease activities that may lead to the introduction of any aquatic species where it is not indigenous, and to direct people in possession of a listed species to take certain actions to prevent the introduction or control the spread of that species.

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