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Steps urged to stop alien aquatic species
Canadian Press

Ottawa - Canada must take urgent action to prevent alien species such as the Asian carp from being dumped in the Great Lakes or face catastrophic consequences, warns Herb Gray, Canadian head of the International Joint Commission.

Mr. Gray, who met with his U.S. counterpart Tuesday, said Canada should adopt binding regulations on ship ballast like those in the United States, rather than the existing non-binding guidelines.

He also called for legislation allowing restrictions on imports of live fish, noting one million kilograms of live fish are imported to Toronto every year.

The Asian carp, a jumping fish of no commercial value, is capable of wiping out the Great Lakes sports fishery which is worth billions of dollars and employs hundreds of thousands of people, he warned.

"The effects would be catastrophic," said Mr. Gray, who joined the commission after leaving his job as deputy prime minister and MP for Windsor.

"Basically we believe that action should be taken now."

The Asian carp was deliberately brought into U.S. waters to clean private catfish farms, but soon escaped and is now a major problem.

The carp is being kept out of the Great Lakes by an electronic barrier on the American side but two of the fish have been found in Canada, said U.S. Commissioner Dennis Schornack.

One fish was found in a fountain in Toronto while the other was in Lake Ontario, said Mr. Schornack.

Mr. Schornack said Canada should have a National Invasive Species Act like that in the United States.

"We'd like to see parallel binding regulations. This is a binational gateway, we ought to regulate it, monitor it and keep invasive species out as a matter of binational policy."

The carp is just one in a series of alien invasive species that have wreaked havoc in the Great Lakes, from the sea lamprey to the zebra mussel.

The discharge of ballast water from vessels coming from other parts of the world is considered the single most important source for alien species in the Great Lakes.

About 80 per cent of vessels entering the lakes report "no ballast on board" - thereby escaping ballast water regulations - even though they often contain a significant amount of residual unpumpable ballast water.

The commission has recommended significant investment in ballast-water treatment technologies such as filtration, heat and ultraviolet light.

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