Invasive alien species in Canada

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Between January 2012 and December 2015, no new invasive alien species were found to have become established in Canada. Currently, 254 species are being federally regulated to prevent their establishment in Canada, including 23 that have been regulated for the first time since January 2012, the baseline date. None of these species have been found to have established in Canada since the baseline date.

Plants or animals that are not native to Canada can cause environmental and economic damage to our waterways, food supply and natural spaces. The best way to avoid this is to prevent their arrival in Canada. Actions to reduce the risk of invasion may be taken here at home, at our borders, or even in other countries.

Federal regulations can be designed to control the introduction or spread of invasive species in Canada. Regulatory actions may focus on high-risk species, such as Asian carp, or on high-risk pathways, such as ship ballast water and the ornamental plant trade. Some pathways cannot be controlled (for example, animals can fly or walk across our borders). Once a high-risk species is found in Canada, eradication efforts may be undertaken to prevent its establishment. For example, porcine epidemic diarrhea, a disease of pigs, was detected in 2014 and eradication efforts continue.

SpeciesFootnote [1] may be regulated if a risk analysis shows they are potentially invasive and that regulation is likely to be effective.

Known Newly Established Invasive Alien Species in Canada, 2012 to 2015
Year Federally regulated species Species not federally regulated
2012 0 0
2013 0 0
2014 0 0
2015 0 0

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Species are considered to be established when a reproducing population exists in Canada. A species that is the focus of eradication efforts will not be considered established until it is deemed no longer possible to eradicate.
Source: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2016).

Alien species are species that have been introduced outside their natural past or present distribution through human action.Footnote [2] Invasive alien species are alien species that are harmful and whose introduction or spread threatens the environment, the economy or society, including human health.Footnote [3] Alien bacteria, viruses, fungi, aquatic and terrestrial plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates (including insects and molluscs) can all become invaders.

Hundreds of invasive species occur in Canada, including many familiar species that have been present for more than a century. Examples range from common weeds like dandelion and Canada thistle, backyard birds like House Sparrows and European Starlings, diseases like West Nile virus, crop- and forest-damaging pests like fruit moths and balsam woolly adelgid, to invertebrates that alter ecosystem function, such as golden star tunicate (sea squirt), zebra mussels and earthworms. In addition to environmental damage, these species cause billions of dollars in economic damage. Invasive weeds, for example, reduce agricultural productivity and increase the use of pesticides. Earthworms, which seem harmless in a garden, have altered nutrient cycling and the structure of the forest floor in eastern hardwood forests, and over time are altering the nature of the forest itself.

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