Evidence of meeting #40 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was regulations.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Sarah Bailey  Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Nick Mandrak  Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Becky Cudmore  Senior Science Advisor, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:40 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

Absolutely.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

We would appreciate that.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rodney Weston

Thank you very much, Mr. Donnelly.

Mr. Sopuck.

May 30th, 2012 / 4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you very much, witnesses.

I was very interested, Dr. Mandrak, in a recent comment about how the risk of contaminants seems to have declined....[Technical Difficulty—Editor]

I'd like to focus on the Asian carp. Everybody focuses on that, and it implies that the Asian carp, and I think rightly so, is a game changer in terms of invasive species. The rainbow trout in the Great Lakes wasn't really a game changer. The Pacific salmon weren't. But there is something about this species. I gather it's a filter feeder. Is that what the issue is? Can you elaborate on that?

4:40 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

Sure. Thank you for the question.

The rainbow trout or the other trout and salmon species were introduced into the Great Lakes to replace the lake trout, which had been decimated a long time ago. They had the same sort of ecological role. The Asian carp have a completely different role. We do not have these huge fishes that are planktivores—they're feeding on the microscopic organisms that you can't see in the water column.

They compete with every species. Every species, at some point, no matter how big they grow, will feed on those microscopic organisms. These Asian carp grow to be over a metre long, up to 50 kilograms. Every day of their life they're feeding on those organisms, at a rate of about 40% of their body weight per day. The reason they're a game changer is because they're unlike anything the Great Lakes have ever seen.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

What you say is quite alarming. How are Asian carp controlled in their natural habitat, the native habitats where they came from? Do they dominate and overwhelm every place on earth?

4:45 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

They don't. That is a good question.

Keep in mind that in their native range they have evolved with the entire fish community over a very long time, over hundreds of thousands of years, depending on where they are found. I've collected them within their native range in eastern Russia, where they were just one component of the environment. There they are in an equilibrium. They've evolved with other species, including predators that have learned to feed on the young of these Asian carp. If they get into the Great Lakes, the Great Lakes ecosystem is entirely naïve. They have not evolved with them, and there will be an immediate impact because of the naiveté of the fish, which have been in the Great Lakes for the last 10,000 year in the absence of Asian carp.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

When new species colonize a new habitat, there is generally an explosion, and then things kind of settle down. They never come back to where they were. Will we ever see a settling down if the Asian carp get in? Is anything happening on the Mississippi, for example? Are we seeing a re-adjustment there, or is that completely out of the question?

4:45 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Okay.

4:45 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

That is part of the invasion theory—you have this initial spike and then you have a levelling off. That initial spike, though, could have such a catastrophic impact on the Great Lakes that even if the numbers came down again the lakes might not go back to their previous state.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I wasn't implying that they would ever go back to their previous state. When the carp got into all the lakes across the country, they never went back to their previous state. The common carp seems to have fit in, in an ugly way. Things have returned to an equilibrium there.

I was very interested in one point in your presentation. You talked about evaluating the success of the round goby eradication effort. Can you talk about what you're doing in that program?

4:45 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Could that be a model for the future?

4:45 p.m.

Research Scientist, Central and Arctic Region, Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences, Burlington, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nick Mandrak

Thank you for that question.

This was a very specific case where in a tributary to Lake Simcoe, round goby were found in about 2005. It was thought to have been placed there by bait. Lake Simcoe is a large lake just north of Toronto. It has a large population around it and is one of the most important recreational fisheries in the province.

The province, the federal government, and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters led a project to try to eradicate the round goby from this one creek, called Pefferlaw Brook. What we did was use rotenone, a fish poison, in the bottom five or six kilometres of the creek where it was found. Actually, it was applied by our sea lamprey control folks, who have made this a science. They're very good at doing this.

Our role was to determine what the fish community was like beforehand and afterward and whether the eradication had been successful. Unfortunately, the eradication was not successful. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and a lot of person days. We concluded that it was not successful in terms of eradication, because the habitat was just too complex. We could not guarantee that the poison totally covered every square centimetre of the habitat and the brook.

It was successful from the point of view that we actually reduced the numbers to the point that we delayed the invasion of Lake Simcoe. The longer you can delay the invasion, the longer you delay those impacts.

I think there were two take-home messages from that project. First, prevention is key. Prevention is the one sure way to prevent the impacts. Second, if through unfortunate circumstances AIS do show up, we should do our best to control them as quickly as possible to reduce the impact as much as possible.