The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) plays an active and important role in helping to keep harmful foreign species of animals, plants and microorganisms from entering Canadian ecosystems. With the growing volume of trade, travel and tourism, new invasive species are continually arriving at Canada's border by air, land and water. The deliberate or accidental introductions of these species can be devastating to the Canadian economy and environment. This is one of the reasons why the CBSA conducts inspections of foods, plants and animals at the border, for both travellers and commercial importers.
An emerging threat to Canada's lakes and waterways is the potential invasion of freshwater fish such as Asian carps through shared waterways with the United States, or through the illegal importation of live specimens of Asian carps across our border.
Asian carps are considered to be Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in Canada as they represent a significant threat to Canada's aquatic environments because of their devastating impact on indigenous aquatic ecosystems.
In North America, there are four carp species commonly referred to as “Asian carps”. They are: Grass, Bighead, Silver, and Black carps. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is the lead for AIS in Canada and the CBSA works closely with DFO officials, as well as provincial and territorial authorities, to stop shipments of live Asian carps from entering Canada.
Shipments of live Asian carps are problematic as the species could potentially be introduced into our waterways should a truck carrying a load of live invasive fish be involved in an accident near a body of water.
The CBSA helps partner authorities protect Canadian biodiversity against threats caused by invasive species. In response to the growing threat from these fish, the coordination between protection authorities has increased significantly over the last two years with positive results.
Traditionally, all seizures of live Asian carps have been made in Ontario. On at least six separate occasions the CBSA has notified the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) of the presence of live Asian carps in shipments destined for live fish food markets in Toronto. The OMNR responded by seizing the live invasive fish and conducting investigations.
The CBSA continues to work diligently with its partners to ensure that federal and provincial authorities are notified when shipments of live Asian carps are imported into Canada.
Why is it illegal to bring live Asian carps into Canada?
In 2005, Ontario passed regulations forbidding the sale or possession of live Asian carps, along with other fish species such as snakeheads and gobies. Other provinces have also banned the possession or importation of live Asian carps.
Asian carp species are also regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) under the Health of Animals Regulations to protect aquatic animal health. Under the Regulations, species listed in Schedule III require an import permit and/or zoosanitary certificate. All CFIA requirements for the importation of food, plants and animals can be found on the CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS).
It is not illegal to import dead Asian carps into Canada, as long as they meet requirements under the Health of Animals Regulations.
What kind of training do border services officers (BSOs) get on identifying these invasive species?
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the OMNR have assisted BSOs with the identification of potential aquatic invasive species. BSOs must rely on experts for the final determination of invasive species.
What do BSOs do when they find carps in a shipment bound for Canada?
In some cases, BSOs may inspect shipments of fish to determine whether they have been truthfully, completely and accurately declared to the CBSA and the CFIA. If they suspect live Asian carps in the shipment, they notify DFO and/or the provincial authorities.
What happens to the carp when it's been seized?
Once the shipment is released by the CBSA, the carps are seized by the provincial authority (usually OMNR), who are responsible for the removal of the live carps.
What are the typical seizures amounts of live Asian carps?
Below are some examples of seizures made:
Windsor border crossing:
November 4, 2010: 4,100 lbs
January 9, 2012: 2,600 lbs
January 25, 2012: 6,800 lbs
February 28, 2012: 14,000 lbs
Sarnia border crossing:
January 20, 2011: 5,450 lbs
February 18, 2011: 6,000 lbs
Have companies been fined for bringing in live Asian carps, or faced legal action before?
Yes. In 2011, one importer was fined by the Province of Ontario for $60,000; this was a second conviction, the first one being in 2006 when the importer was fined $40,000. In addition, another company was fined $20,000 in 2011.
In June 2012, a Toronto fish importing company and its president were fined a total of $50,000 for possessing live Asian Carps in Ontario.
(Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
Link to Fisheries and Oceans Canada sites with additional information regarding aquatic invasive species and Asian carps:
Aquatic Invasive Species
Article on the impact of Asian carp if allowed to spread into Canada (including a map):
Will Asian Carp Invade Canada?
Links to Canada's strategy on invasive species:
Canada´s Response to Invasive Species
An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Canada - A Strategy in the Making