TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Canada said Monday it will devote $17.5 million to protecting the Great Lakes from Asian carp, including development of an early warning system with U.S. agencies so authorities can react quickly if the invasive species is detected.
Another priority will be informing people about the dangers that Asian carp pose and how to keep them out of the lakes, which the two nations share, said Keith Ashfield, minister of Canada’s Fisheries and Oceans department. Canada also will work with law enforcement agencies to prevent unlawful transport of the fish.
“We are committed to working with our American counterparts to continue to protect the Great Lakes basin,” Ashfield said. “Together, these measures will go a long way toward our ultimate goal of stopping Asian carp from entering and becoming established in the Great Lakes.”
The Obama administration has spent more than $100 million on efforts to shield the lakes from silver and bighead carp, which were imported from Asia decades ago to clean fish farming ponds and sewage lagoons in the southern U.S. They escaped during floods and have migrated northward, gobbling huge amounts of plankton — microscopic plants and animals at the base of aquatic food chains.
Scientists say if the aggressive carp reach the Great Lakes, they could destabilize ecosystems and damage the $7 billion fishing industry.
The epicenter of the battle is a network of rivers and canals in the Chicago area that form a link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi watershed. The U.S. government operates an electric fish barrier there, and officials are considering whether to build structures that would separate the two systems.
Asian carp have been exported to Canada for live sale in markets, although the fish are banned in Ontario and British Columbia. Canadian authorities have stepped up enforcement actions at the border in recent years, intercepting a number of shipments.
The proposed early warning and monitoring system will be designed to alert experts if Asian carp are detected in the lakes and to have a plan ready if they appear to be spreading.
The International Joint Commission, a treaty organization that advises both nations about issues affecting the Great Lakes, has urged them to step up their detection efforts. Joe Comuzzi, the commission’s Canadian chairman, said Canada’s funding pledge was an important step.
“Our two nations must work together to stop this very real threat, to protect both the fishery and the health of the entire ecosystem,” Comuzzi said.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)