Canada-Ontario agreement on Great Lakes: annex 6

Annex 6: aquatic invasive species

The purpose of this annex is to ensure cooperative and coordinated efforts to reduce the threat of aquatic invasive species to Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health.

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) have altered Great Lakes ecosystems and caused significant disruptions to many of the benefits those ecosystems provide to Canadians. The continued introduction of AIS is one of the most significant threats to biodiversity in the Great Lakes. They can degrade water quality by increasing suspended solids, concentrating toxins, and altering nutrient and energy flows within the food web. Zebra and quagga mussels trap nutrients in the nearshore zones of the Great Lakes, contributing to degraded water quality, algae development and deleterious impacts on fish and wildlife populations.

The Parties will provide leadership by working with all jurisdictions across the Great Lakes basin to develop effective rules and standards that can be practically applied by industry and the public, and that are consistent with rules and standards in other jurisdictions. They will continue to coordinate the implementation of the Canadian Action Plan to Address the Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species and the Ontario Invasive Species Strategic Plan, with a special focus on the priority actions for invasive species in the Great Lakes - prevention, detection, rapid response, management and adaptation.

Provincial regulations are in place prohibiting possession of live invasive fish species in Ontario, including live Asian carp. Coordinated efforts are being taken by several federal/provincial agencies and have resulted in a number of successful interceptions and prosecutions under these regulations. The prohibition of possession of live Asian carp in other jurisdictions - the United States, Quebec, Manitoba, and British Columbia - provides further protection.

Sea lamprey control is a significant federal action that is critical to meeting fish community and ecosystem objectives for the Great Lakes. This program is the largest AIS control program in the world. It is delivered under the Great Lakes Fishery Convention by Canada (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) and the United States, through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

The recently incorporated Invasive Species Centre in Sault Ste. Marie is a new collaboration amongst the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Canadian Forest Service Branch of Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It is a valuable new initiative to help achieve agreement commitments on AIS.

This annex includes goals and commitments to address ballast water, assess potential new AIS and AIS pathways, reduce the spread of existing AIS, and facilitate early detection and rapid response. Actions to prevent the introduction of AIS in the ballast water of ships are addressed in the discharges from vessels annex of this agreement.

Goal 1: Implement controls on ballast water to protect Great Lakes ecosystems from AIS.

Result 1.1 - Continued implementation of Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the development of additional cost effective control measures to further reduce risk of introductions or intra-basin spread of AIS.

Canada will:

  • (a) Continue enforcement of Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations to promote 100 percent compliance and meet international standards as described in Annex 5 of the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement;
  • (b) Research and develop additional practicable measures to further reduce the risk of introduction into or spread of AIS via ships within the Great Lakes; and
  • (c) Carry out ecological assessments of the effectiveness of ballast water control efforts.

Goal 2: Implement programs to prevent the introduction, establishment, and spread of AIS and to control existing AIS where possible.

Result 2.1 - Binationally-coordinated risk assessments of potential new AIS and AIS pathways to inform prevention, monitoring, and control measures.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Undertake biological and socio-economic risk assessments for potential new AIS, pathways and vectors identified as potential routes of entry. These risk assessments will be coordinated with management agencies from other Canadian or foreign jurisdictions where appropriate. Risk assessments of pathways of introduction may include: trade and/or importation of live organisms for live food markets, aquariums and gardens; use of bait; biological supply houses; recreation activities; and connecting waterways; and
  • (b) Develop improved understanding of the potential for movement of AIS through canals and waterways and implement programs to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS through intra-basin connections.

Result 2.2 - Regulations and/or management strategies, informed by risk assessments, to help prevent new and potential invaders, such as Asian carp, and to reduce the spread of AIS.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Assess and, where necessary, take steps to update applicable federal and/or provincial legislation, regulations and policies to prevent the introduction and establishment of new AIS and ensure clear accountability of agencies;
  • (b) Continue to develop binational, national and provincial plans for prevention, early detection and rapid response to AIS on basin-wide scales or at smaller scales as appropriate (for example, Lake Superior Aquatic Invasive Species Complete Prevention Plan); and
  • (c) Continue joint enforcement efforts of existing regulations to prevent the introduction of AIS, such as Asian carp, to the Great Lakes basin through the live food-fish pathway and other pathways.

Result 2.3 - Effective control of sea lamprey resulting in suppression of their populations to target levels that support fish community objectives in all Great Lakes.

Canada will:

  • (a) Implement the sea lamprey control program in cooperation with the United States as coordinated through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to reduce sea lamprey abundance to target levels that support fish community objectives in all Great Lakes;
  • (b) Carry out research about sea lamprey control methods and population assessments to optimize decisions that target control efforts, select control methods, and evaluate program effectiveness; and
  • (c) Carry out research and development of alternatives to lampricides to deliver effective, integrated management of sea lamprey.

Result 2.4 - Existing dams and new barriers are in place to effectively and economically prevent the spread of AIS while considering the needs of the broader ecosystem.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Identify existing dams and barriers in need of maintenance or being considered for removal that would slow the spread of AIS. Evaluate positive and negative effects of these dams and where appropriate, use the best information and decision tools available to develop plans to reduce the spread of AIS;
  • (b) Identify potential new locations for dams and barriers that could be used to slow the spread of invasive species and consider the potential for the spread of AIS in the design of new dams and associated fishways; and
  • (c) Continue research and development of fishways that block sea lamprey and/or other AIS but allow movement of non-invasive fish and other organisms.

Result 2.5 - Appropriate consideration of the potential to spread AIS during any transfer or use of water.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Consider and mitigate the risk of spreading AIS when evaluating any transfer or use of water.

Goal 3: Develop coordinated plans for early detection and rapid response initiatives.

Result 3.1 - Development of early detection and rapid response initiatives for Canadian waters, coordinated and complementary with United States domestic planning to create a basin-wide response framework.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Within two years, jointly develop an early detection and rapid response framework for Canadian waters that is guided by risk assessments, involves all required jurisdictions and agencies, and includes the development and implementation of watch lists, detection programs, reporting protocols and coordinated institutional, science, and management responses for AIS;
  • (b) Coordinate these domestic early detection and rapid response frameworks with United States response plans to create a binational, basin-wide response framework to prevent the establishment of newly detected AIS; and
  • (c) Work with United States federal and state agencies through key mechanisms, such as the United States Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, to coordinate prevention, surveillance and response actions for Asian carp.

Goal 4: Improve understanding and tools to respond to AIS.

Result 4.1 - Expanded use of new techniques in the early detection of high risk AIS at low levels of abundance in the Great Lakes and in potential pathways.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Work with United States agencies to explore and expand the use of new techniques, including genetic techniques and rapid assessment technologies, to detect high risk AIS at low abundances in the Great Lakes and in other potential pathways including trade, commerce, and recreation.

Result 4.2 - Improved understanding of the ecosystem impacts of new and established high risk AIS to support decision making about possible rapid response or control actions and, where control is not feasible, to support decisions about adaptation of resource and environmental management.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Identify new AIS that pose the greatest threat and conduct research to assess the risks to Great Lakes basin ecosystems, food webs and native species from possible new invasions;
  • (b) Continue to develop and implement biological and socio-economic risk assessment tools to determine pathways and relative risks associated with new and existing AIS;
  • (c) Monitor and report on the status of established AIS and their impacts on Great Lakes food webs;
  • (d) Where AIS are established, and eradication is not feasible, develop mitigation and/or management actions for priority invasive species based on risk analyses that forecast the effectiveness and efficiency of such measures; and
  • (e) Develop adaptation strategies and tactics for established AIS to guide fisheries, resource, and environmental management in situations where eradication or management options are not feasible.

Result 4.3 - Understanding the potential for new or expanded ranges of AIS in the Great Lakes as a result of climate change.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Undertake research to identify potential changes in species distributions and risks of new AIS due to the effects of climate change in the Great Lakes basin and incorporate findings in risk analyses of new AIS and pathways.

Goal 5: Engage the great lakes community regarding ways to prevent, detect, respond and manage AIS.

Result 5.1 - Increased awareness and education to assist in preventing the spread of AIS and reporting new occurrences.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Expand collaborative communications and outreach and continue to engage the Great Lakes community to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS via high risk pathways; and
  • (b) Collaborate with research forums such as the Invasive Species Centre, Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and Great Lakes Commission to communicate new and emerging science regarding AIS.
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