Legislation introduced by the Ontario government late last month would give the province the power to ban the possession and transportation of invasive species.
The Invasive Species Act, tabled on Feb. 26, would modernize inspection and enforcement measures to counter invasive plant and animal species such as the emerald ash borer and zebra mussel.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the bill will allow the government to rapidly respond to threats and work with partner organizations to contain invasive species where they are found.
The proposed law is sorely needed to counter the Asian carp threat, said Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett.
“I commend this government for taking invasive species seriously enough – and taking MNR seriously enough – to introduce this legislation today,” Barrett said in the Legislature.
Barrett would now like to see the Liberals act on his call to have all Asian carp entering Ontario eviscerated to eliminate the chance that the invasive fish will inadvertently enter the Great Lakes system.
“In 2011, I submitted a resolution calling for evisceration, gutting, of any Asian carp brought into Ontario for food,” Barrett told his fellow MPPs at Queen’s Park.
“MNR made the same call in 2013, but the clock is ticking.”
While testifying in January at the Army Corps of Engineers hearing into how to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, Barrett said Canadian provinces and American states must join forces to contain the fish to the Mississippi River basin.
“I testified that it makes no difference if a truck full of live Asian carp gets in a collision in Ontario or Ohio or Michigan, and the fish escape into a ditch that flows into a Lake Erie tributary,” Barrett said.
“Invasive species don’t abide by borders.”
Barrett urged natural resources minister David Orazieti to ensure that the new legislation complements ongoing efforts to stop the carp on either side of the border.
Orazieti called the Invasive Species Act “a critical tool in our fight against the growing threat of invasive species, and for addressing the ecological and economic threats that invasive species pose to our province.”
If the law were to be passed, Ontario would become the only jurisdiction in Canada with its own invasive species legislation.
Dilhari Fernando, executive director of the Invasive Species Centre, said the Invasive Species Act would help her organization and others like it work with the government to combat the threat of invasive species.
“This proposed legislation would strengthen these partnerships and make our efforts to fight invasive species even more effective,” she said.
In a primer outlining the new bill, the province stated that invasive species worldwide inflict $1.4 trillion in environment, agricultural and social costs – seven times that of natural disasters.
It is feared that the arrival of Asian carp into the Great Lakes would be the death knell of the province’s multi-billion dollar commercial and sport fisheries.