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How Canada responds to aquatic invasive species

Learn about our response steps and provincial response initiatives when handling aquatic invasive species.

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Responding to aquatic invasive species

Either federal or provincial governments can respond to prevent an aquatic invasive species from establishing itself permanently or spreading in a local habitat.

The Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations provides the authority for response actions. A basic response plan could include:

  1. confirming the suspicious organism’s identity
  2. assessing the extent of the invasion
  3. quarantining the infested area, if possible
  4. reviewing and choosing available control options
  5. applying the chosen control option(s)
  6. adapting the response strategy as needed

An effective response plan could also include stakeholders that have:

A successful response aims to permanently remove all members of an aquatic invasive species population from the affected waterbody while taking in account potential impacts on fish and fish habitat. Federal, provincial and territorial governments may take action when such an activity is feasible and likely to succeed.

Provincial/territorial collaboration

Each province and territory works with different partners to manage issues caused by aquatic invasive species.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador

Ciona in Newfoundland and Labrador

Ciona in Newfoundland and Labrador

In 2012, the solitary invasive vase tunicate arrived in Placentia Bay. It was attached to wharf structures, eel grass and some vessels in the area. Because the species was confined to a small area of Placentia Bay, early detection provided a unique opportunity to prevent its spread.

A rapid response plan to control the tunicate’s spread was developed by:

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • the Provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture
  • the Department of Ocean Sciences at the Memorial University of Newfoundland

They found only few individuals, which they mechanically removed. Afterwards, they deployed settlement plates. Between 2013 and 2015, they regularly conducted dive surveys to ensure the tunicate hadn’t spread. However, the overall success of the control and containment plan depends on continued commitment.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Aquatic Invasive Species Advisory Committee is co-chaired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association. This committee:

  • develops and implements rapid response strategies when aquatic invasive species are detected
  • explores methods to prevent the introduction of new aquatic invasive species into Newfoundland and Labrador waters
  • provides a forum for communication between the organizations involved in the management of aquatic invasive species in Newfoundland and Labrador


Asian carp

Asian carp

We have strong collaboration with the U.S. to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. This is done through work on the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and with committees such as the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

Between the 1970s and 1990s, Asian carps escaped into the Mississippi River basin from southern U.S. aquaculture facilities during floods. They migrated northward through this basin. When the water receded, dead Asian carps on the shoreline outnumbered all native species of fish 9 to 1. This was proof that the species had invaded the Mississippi.

We conducted risk assessments in collaboration with partners, such as the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. These assessments provided science advice for managers in Canada and the U.S. The Asian carps were found to be a potential threat to the Great Lakes basin because:

  • they had access to:
    • plenty of food and habitat for survival
    • many suitable tributaries for spawning
    • existing arrival routes from several U.S. waterways
  • should they establish, ecosystem disruption and socio-economic impacts would likely occur
  • there was risk of spread into other Canadian waterbodies

We received the first Asian carp sighting from Grand River, Ontario, in 2013. We undertook immediate response activities with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. We tested to confirm the species identification, and we learned that the specimens were sterile.

In response to this threat, we worked with the province to develop and test an Asian Carp Response Plan. This plan uses the Incident Command System framework, which is a standardized approach to the command, control and coordination of emergency response. It provides a network of multiple agencies who work cooperatively to manage response through improved operations.

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