ONTARIO—As the province faces threats from invasive species such as Asian carp and the mountain pine beetle, the Ontario government has introduced a bill to support the prevention, early detection, rapid response and eradication of these species.
“Invasive species cost the Ontario economy tens of millions of dollars each year,” said Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti in a press release. “With the introduction of our proposed Invasive Species Act, Ontario is taking strong action to address the social, ecological and economic threats that invasive species pose.”
Managing the impacts of just one invasive species—zebra mussels—is estimated to cost the province between $75 million and $91 million each year.
These, and other invasive species, have impacts on the natural environment that are often irreversible. Asian carp have overwhelmed some river systems in the United States, where they now make up more than 95 percent of the fish by weight in some areas. The European common reed, phragmites, is damaging Ontario beaches and wetlands.
More than 180 non-native aquatic species have been found to occur in the Great Lakes basin, and some have been here for decades. Invasive species are found everywhere in the province, though the majority are in southern Ontario. For more information, visit ontario.ca/invasivespecies.
If the proposed act is passed, Ontario will be the only jurisdiction in Canada that has stand-alone invasive species legislation.
The proposed Invasive Species Act, which was introduced in the provincial legislature on February 26, would give Ontario the tools to ban activities such as possessing and transporting certain high risk invasive species, enable rapid response actions to address urgent threats, and would help ensure compliance through modernized inspection and enforcement measures.
“Preventing invasive species from arriving and becoming established in Ontario is critical in our fight against this growing threat,” Minister Orazietti said. “The proposed legislation would help by providing the powers to intervene earlier, so small problems don’t become bigger and lead to significant environmental and economic costs for Ontarians.”
Following last week’s announcement, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) expressed its congratulations on the proposed legislation.
“The OFAH is home to the Invading Species Awareness Program and works in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources to provide a program of public education and information on invasive species designed to promote early detection of both aquatic and terrestrial invasives, with the aim of preventing their introduction and stopping the spread of these species into sensitive ecosystems,” said OFAH Executive Director Angelo Lombardo. “This is a positive step in the fight against invasive species that will compliment actions already taken by the federal government. The importation of invasive species into Ontario is a serious concern. The legislation being introduced by the province will provide the minister with the tools to immediately react when a new species is identified, or when a threat is identified.”
The legislation extends the ministry’s powers to include more comprehensive inspection powers to determine compliance with the act, the introduction of a suite of enforcement provisions and penalties and gives inspectors the right to take samples and prohibit movement that may result in the spread of invasive species.
“Invasive species have already impacted our lakes, rivers and streams, and the potential long term economic impact is staggering,” Mr. Lombardo continued. “The cost of not addressing this threat to our environment and the economy can be measured in the billions of dollars. A key plank in this new strategy is the recognition that stakeholders like the OFAH have a key role to play in the management of invasive species and we are pleased to partner with the Ontario government on this important initiative.”