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A Canadian Action Plan to Address the Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species

Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers Aquatic Invasive Species Task Group

A Canadian Action Plan to Address the Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species

A Canadian Action Plan to Address the Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species (PDF, 101 KB)

Table of Contents

Strategic Management Framework

Leadership, coordination and cooperation

AIS issues are extremely complex and involve a wide variety of stakeholders, including all levels of government (and several departments within each level), many industry sectors, and numerous NGOs. Effective leadership and coordination are imperative for success, as they serve to reduce overlap and duplication and focus efforts on the most important tasks.

Overall leadership for implementing this plan is shared between the federal government and the provinces and territories. Lead agencies include Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada and their provincial and territorial counterparts.

To ensure national implementation and coordination of the plan, lead agencies will review existing structures (including federal-provincial-territorial priority-setting mechanisms, accountability and reporting structures, and resources) and identify/ address any gaps.

Leadership and coordination actions include the following:




Canada shares responsibility for managing many waterways with the United States and is represented on a number of bilateral groups with a mandate to control invasive species. These include the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species, the Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species Panel, the Mississippi River Basin Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species and the Western Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species.

Implementation strategies

Many of the strategies required to deal with the threat of AIS call for action within a specific pathway or with respect to a single species. For the purpose of developing a Canadian plan, those actions are best organized in broad categories that apply across pathways and species and are harmonized between jurisdictions. These categories are:

1. Legislation, regulation and compliance

Effective legislative frameworks take into account the varying needs and priorities of different jurisdictions and sectors. Although the mandates for addressing most AIS issues fall under one or more existing pieces of legislation, there is a need for better integration.

Areas for action include:

2. Risk management (Risk assessment, early detection and rapid response)

Efforts to detect and respond to invasions constitute the front line work for managing AIS and are a top priority for governments.

Prevention is the primary focus of the AIS plan as it is the most cost-effective way to deal with any potential threats. Effective risk management includes identifying high risk pathways or species and developing a comprehensive rapid response strategy that includes clear accountabilities, monitoring capacity, and taxonomic expertise.

Where species have already been introduced, the priority shifts to early detection and risk assessment, including measures aimed at control, eradication, and restoration. The methods used can be physical, chemical, or biological.

Actions in this area include:

3. Engaging Canadians (Stewardship, education and awareness)

Since much of the spread of invasive species occurs through unintentional actions, education and awareness campaigns can increase levels of compliance with regulations designed to prevent the spread of AIS. A stewardship perspective emphasizes the fact that managing AIS is a shared responsibility between governments and stakeholders and that action is only effective with widespread commitment. Stewardship should be locally-driven through existing organizations with programs that provide training and support.

4. Science (Monitoring, research, and risk analysis)

There is currently a shortage of knowledge about the biology of invasive species, their ultimate environmental, social, and economic effects, as well as the most effective tools and procedures to deal with them. Research into the biological, technological and socio-economic aspects of this problem needs to move toward making management of AIS a predictive rather than reactive effort. An integral part of this process involves using existing risk assessment tools and models and developing new ones as needed.

Science-based research supports resource decision-making, including the development of policy, legislation, and programs and develops best practices in controlling the spread of invasive species.

DFO has appointed an Invasions Biology Research Chair at the University of Windsor to further research into vectors and impacts of aquatic invasive species.

Discussions are underway to coordinate research efforts, both within Canada and between Canada and the US/internationally, and seek funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for a Canadian AIS research network focused on four key theme areas.

Other actions may include:

Setting priorities

Although there are some obvious urgent priorities that call for immediate action, existing prevention and control programs must be maintained. Setting future priorities begins with gathering information to more clearly understand the scope of the problem. Equally urgent is producing an inventory of both current and potential invasive species threats. Some work has already been done in this area, including national reviews of existing legislation.

The focus is first on prevention, followed by early detection, rapid response, and finally eradication, control, and management. Specific priorities will include activities that:

Other considerations in setting priorities include:

Roles, responsibilities and resources

As AIS are a horizontal issue, commitment from numerous departments and agencies across all levels of government as well as other stakeholders is required. The participation of all Canadians is necessary to deal with the threats to Canada's biodiversity and economy from invasive species.

Governments have committed to providing the necessary leadership in the search for solutions to the invasive species threat and the coordination of related activities.

Variations in mandates and capacity mean that jurisdictions play different roles at different times. While certain responsibilities are clearly within federal, provincial, territorial, or even municipal jurisdiction, others are less clearly defined. Further, as the job of managing waterways is shared between the federal government and the provinces/ territories, coordination between jurisdictions is essential. Actions to implement this plan must, therefore, be flexible and allow for regional variations to priorities.

This plan cannot succeed without the full participation of industry, NGOs, Aboriginal peoples and the general public. All stakeholders can contribute valuable resources that will help control AIS.

While much is being done within existing structures and programs, full implementation of the Canadian plan will require new human and financial resources. Resources devoted to AIS prevention or control measures not only reduce the need for future expenditures but can generate economic benefits.

Given the scope of the AIS problem, effective use of limited resources is imperative to achieve maximum benefits. Much can be done through developing partnerships that leverage the full value of each dollar spent and maximize opportunities to pool expertise and resources. Whether proceeds from existing fee structures can be used to help combat invasive species should also be explored.

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