Early detection and monitoring for aquatic invasive species

Learn about early detection and monitoring, including field reports, boat inspections, environmental DNA and collaboration.

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About early detection and monitoring

Early detection and monitoring of aquatic invasive species involves:

Our early detection and monitoring activities target locations where aquatic invasive species are most likely to establish. These prime locations include areas with high shipping and boating activity, such as:

Areas at especially high risk are where environmental conditions, such as temperature and salinity, are favourable for the establishment of aquatic invasive species.

In these prime locations, our scientists will regularly:

A settlement plate being deployed in a marina to detect aquatic invasive species.

A settlement plate being deployed in a marina to detect aquatic invasive species.

Retrieving the settlement plate reveals many tunicates.

Retrieving the settlement plate reveals many tunicates.

A settlement plate showing the presence of colonial tunicates.

A settlement plate showing the presence of colonial tunicates.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and British Columbia follow standardized monitoring for several aquatic invasive species, including:

We study and collaborate with provinces, Indigenous groups, environmental non-governmental organizations, and local citizens to get information about where aquatic invasive species are found.

Field reports

In order to check every bay and every river in Canada, we rely on citizens to report sightings of potential aquatic invasive species. We study each field report submission and figure out the identity of the species.

You can assist us in early detection and monitoring with your field report by following these steps.

  1. Identify the species.
  2. Note the exact location (GPS coordinates) and the observation date.
  3. Take photos.
  4. Take note of identifying features.
  5. Contact us to report an aquatic invasive species.

Boat inspections

Alberta boat inspectors at a watercraft inspection station. Copyright Alberta Environment and Parks

Alberta boat inspectors at a watercraft inspection station. © Alberta Environment and Parks

Moving watercraft over land is a major risk for transporting aquatic invasive species to uninvaded water bodies in Canada. In response to the threat of a zebra and quagga mussels invasion and/or spread, provinces have established watercraft inspection stations:

All carriers of water-based vessels must report to the onsite inspectors when signage indicates that a watercraft inspection station is open. The inspectors will check for aquatic invasive species on:

These programs have had a high success rate and they continue to show positive results. In 2018, the inspectors surveyed 31,000 boats and found 11 carrying invasive mussels.

Environmental DNA

A new and emerging early detection and monitoring tool for aquatic invasive species is environmental DNA (eDNA). This technology allows resource managers to take a simple water sample and analyze it for genetic (DNA) material in the water.

This new tool provides an alternative to traditional sampling methods. It may help reduce the time, resources and expenses involved in early detection and monitoring programs.

We’ve been developing eDNA assays to test for aquatic invasive species and species of concern. These eDNA tools are starting to be incorporated into the monitoring and surveillance activities of our various management programs.

Collaboration

With Canada’s large land mass, extensive coastlines, and abundance of freshwater systems, early detection and monitoring depends on our collaborative partnerships with:

This collaboration is necessary for protecting Canada’s aquatic ecosystems from aquatic invasive species.

For professionals

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