aquatic invasive species
Aquatic invasive species (left to right): European Green Crab, Clubbed Tunicate, Zebra Mussel. Photos from Fisheries and Oceans Canada

A spring report from the environmental watchdog for Parliament warns that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Canada Border Services Agency have not taken the steps required to prevent aquatic invasive species from becoming established in Canadian waters.

The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the Parliament of Canada report notes that zebra mussels, green crab, and tunicates have continued to be threats, while government departments have not determined which species were the most important to regulate nor which species and pathways pose the greatest threats to Canada’s environment, economy and human health.

“We also found that Fisheries and Oceans Canada did not distinguish its responsibilities with regard to aquatic invasive species from those of the provinces and territories,” states the report from the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. “Not knowing who should do what creates uncertainty about which jurisdiction should respond when new invasive species are detected.”

Invasive species can damage fisheries, shipping, aquaculture, tourism; stress ecosystem functions; litter beaches and docks; and damage hydroelectric and drinking water filtration facilities. See article “How to effectively control zebra mussels” for more information on Zebra Mussel treatment.

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The April 2 report notes that it costs less to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species than to delay action and manage them once established.

The watchdog report points out that DFO’s Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations were “not adequately enforced”, partly due to shortcomings in equipping and training fishery officers and border officers with the means to prevent aquatic invasive species from entering Canada.

The report notes that since 2011 DFO has only developed and implemented a single rapid response plan regarding invasive species. In this case, the plan was for several species of Asian Carp. Likewise, the department has only responded to a single infraction since the aquatic invasive species regulations were introduced in 2015. About 170 species are listed in those regulations.

The report also includes responses from DFO regarding the concerns raised in the report. Firstly, DFO stated that by April of 2021 it will have developed a systematic approach to determine which biological and socio-economic risk assessments are needed.

Second, DFO stated that it will develop a listing process for adding new species under the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations, in collaboration with provinces and territories through the National Aquatic Invasive Species Committee.

Third, DFO states that it is currently discussing a formal agreement with the Province of British Columbia regarding the management of freshwater and marine invasive species in that province. Discussions with New Brunswick have also begun.

Additionally, DFO responded by noting that, “while Fisheries and Oceans Canada is the lead for managing aquatic invasive species in Canada, it is a shared responsibility across numerous federal departments and agencies, including but not limited to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada, Transport Canada, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, National Defence, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.”

Lastly, DFO responded with the fact that it is developing enhanced training on the regulations for border services officers and will also develop procedures, tools, and training for its fishery officers by April of 2020.

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