Ontario takes Asian carp fight to U.S. Supreme Court
Written by CTV News   
Saturday, 02 January 2010 18:18

Ontario has filed a motion in the U.S. Supreme court, supporting a lawsuit aimed at preventing the spread of an invasive fish into the Great Lakes that could cause billions of dollars in damage to the fishing industry.

Ontario Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield told CTV.ca the motion was filed Thursday morning by the province's Attorney General.
Ontario -- the only Canadian province that borders the Great Lakes -- joins U.S. states Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin in support of a lawsuit launched by Michigan earlier this month, demanding the state of Illinois shut down shipping locks in Chicago to prevent the Asian carp from spreading into Lake Michigan.

Aquatic biologists warn that once the fish gets into Lake Michigan, it will spread uncontrollably into the other Great Lakes, and eat so much, it will starve off native species. DNA evidence has shown the fish are 10 kilometres from the mouth of Lake Michigan, close to a barrier intended to block them from infiltrating the lake.
Michigan claims the Asian carp would cause $7 billion in damage to the Great Lakes' fishing industries. Ontario would be hit especially hard because it borders four out of the five lakes.
"Because we're not Americans, we can file a motion in support and that's what we've done. We're saying we can support their motion because we can also prove detrimental effects," Cansfield said.

An especially hungry invasive species, Asian carp can weigh up to 45 kilograms, and eat up to half their body weight in plankton, starving out native fish. They leap into the air when frightened and hit boaters. Because they grow so large, they are known to cause injuries.

Cansfield said an Asian carp invasion would be especially detrimental to the fishing industry on Ontario's Lake Erie shore, which is home to one of the world's largest freshwater commercial perch and bass fisheries.

"The fisheries would be impacted, sports fishing, tourism, as well as commercial fishing. It's a huge impact in terms of the billions of dollars for Ontario," she said, explaining sport fishing alone brings in about $1 billion to the province.

"You're talking the drinking water and the source of recreation. We want to protect our water too. We're going to support the efforts of the states that are involved," Cansfield said.
She said damage by Asian carp could top the damage done by the infamous Zebra Mussel and Spiny flea.

This week, spokespeople for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans told CTV.ca that due to the holiday season and staff vacations, they are unable to provide details on whether the federal government has any intentions of supporting Michigan's lawsuit or launching a separate one.

Last month, the DFO sent biologists to Illinois after officials there asked for help with a mass fish poisoning they hoped would kill off any Asian Carp.
Officials dumped 900 kg of fish poison into a canal. In 90,000 kg of dead fish, only a single Asian carp was found. Biologists hailed the find as a good sign that the fish were not as wide-spread in the area as feared.

The Asian carp was first introduced into the U.S. by fish farms, but they escaped into the Mississippi river in the 1990s due to flooding. They've since moved north.

 
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