Protecting Canada from invasive species
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. Learn what types of food, plant and animal products are prohibited in Canada for both travellers and commercial importers.
On this page
- Asian carps
- Zebra and quagga mussels
- Bait for recreational fishing
- Wood packaging material
- Goods potentially contaminated with soil
Help protect our forests. Buy local. Burn local. Don’t move firewood.
As invasive insects and diseases can exist in firewood, it cannot be imported into Canada without a permit. Visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for more information.
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 fish across our border. Asian carps are considered as aquatic invasive species in Canada as they represent a significant threat to Canada's aquatic environments because of their devastating impact on indigenous aquatic ecosystems.
The CBSA works closely with federal officials, as well as provincial and territorial authorities, to stop shipments of live Asian carps from entering Canada.
Visit the Fisheries and Oceans Canada for more information.
Zebra and quagga mussels
Zebra and quagga mussels are freshwater species that can dramatically change entire ecosystems. They are native to Eastern Europe and were introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s. Since then, they have become widespread in eastern Canada and the United States, but have also recently arrived in the western US and in Manitoba. While not currently known to be present in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Atlantic Provinces, they could survive in much of these waters, causing serious environmental and economic impacts.
Species travelling across borders
Unlike mussels native to Canada, zebra and quagga mussels can attach to hard surfaces, allowing them to be moved by boats and equipment trailered between water bodies. These mussels can survive for extended periods out of the water and can be easily overlooked in the smaller juvenile stages when attached to a boat. Their microscopic free-swimming larvae can also survive for up to 30 days in standing water in boats or other equipment.
Towing watercraft and equipment across borders
Any vessel, watercraft or piece of equipment that has been in any province or state known or suspected of having zebra or quagga mussels and is not clean (free of these mussels, plants, soil and mud), drained, and to the extent practical, dry, is high risk.
Travellers towing watercraft and equipment across borders must ensure that they are not unintentionally transporting zebra or quagga mussels. If CBSA officers suspect the presence of these mussels, authorities will be notified and travellers and their equipment may be refused entry into Canada or required to follow decontamination and/or quarantine procedures.
- Memorandum D19-8-5, Import Prohibitions and Requirements for Commercial Importers of Aquatic Species and for Travellers Under the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada web page on Aquatic Invasive Species
Bait for recreational fishing
The rules on bringing bait for recreational fishing into Canada fall under many laws and regulations.
Your role as a traveller is to always declare to the CBSA what you are bringing into the country.
Before crossing the border, be sure to check official federal, provincial or territorial government websites for laws and regulations. Also, provide documentation indicating scientific names of the species you are importing as bait.
Importing susceptible species and their products for use as bait, live or dead (including fresh and frozen), requires a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) import permit.
Depending on where the species comes from, you may also require a zoosanitary export certificate from the exporting country.
Earthworms, insects and leeches
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) establishes the policies for what you must do to import earthworms, insects and leeches into Canada.
If you're coming to Canada by land or water and bringing earthworms as bait, you'll need a plant protection permit from the CFIA. Earthworms can harm Canada's plant health by potentially carrying soil with parasites and diseases.
You also need special authorization to bring insects across the border.
Always use the CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) to get the most up-to-date import requirements. This will let you know what specific documentation you may need to bring things like leeches into Canada.
- Bringing earthworms? Check Changes to the requirements for importing earthworms into Canada
- Bringing insects? Check Importing and handling invertebrates and micro-organisms
- Bringing leeches? Check AIRS and check provincial/territorial requirements
- Plant protection regulations
- Health of animals regulations
Aquatic invasive species
Aquatic invasive species can pose significant risks to Canada's environment, economy, and human, plant and animal health.
Border services officers will refuse entry of all species that are prohibited from being imported into Canada. They will only allow imports to enter the country if:
- the conditions for exemption, described in the Aquatic invasive species regulations, are met
- directed to do so by enforcement authorities
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the provinces and territories have more information about prohibited aquatic species.
Salamanders, frogs and toads
Border services officers will refuse entry into Canada of all species of salamanders, frogs and toads that do not have proper documentation.
If you plan to bring any type of salamander into Canada for any reason, you must get an import permit from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).
To bring frogs and toads into Canada as bait, you must have the proper permit from ECCC or from the country of export. Frogs and toads could be:
- subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) permit requirements
- threatened or endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
- protected by a foreign state and consequently importation is prohibited under ECCC legislation
- Import restriction on salamanders
- Permits for trade in protected species
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
- Species at risk Act (SARA)
Wood packaging material
Wood packaging material is any piece of non-manufactured wood used to brace, support, protect or secure a consignment or cargo. Wood packaging materials include, but are not limited to dunnage, crating, wood boxes, load boards, pallets, wooden wire drums and skids.
The wood packaging material import requirements are strict guidelines put in place to protect Canadian forestry from non-native pests found in wood packaging materials. Invasive pests can result in economic losses — stemming from eradication and control costs in the millions of dollars, loss of export markets, and loss of Canadian industry and tourism jobs and dollars — as well as irreversible damage of forests and forest ecosystems.
Wood packaging products constructed entirely (100%) from manufactured parts: plywood, plastics, cardboard, fibre board and oriented strand board are exempt from Canada's import requirements.
Import requirements for wood packaging material
In Canada, all non-manufactured wood packaging materials used in international trade must be compliant with International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures 15 (ISPM 15). It is prohibited to import or move untreated, non-manufactured wood packaging material into or through Canada, unless it originates from the continental United States.
The entry requirements for wood packaging from all areas except the continental United States are specified in D-98-08: Entry Requirements for Wood Packaging Materials Produced in All Areas Other Than the Continental United States.
All costs associated with the storage, separation, treatment, removal, and/or disposal of non-compliant wood packaging material or dunnage are the responsibility of the importer or person in possession, or care and control of the goods pursuant to section 44 of the Plant Protection Act.
Importers should be aware that undeclared or non-compliant wood packaging may be refused entry into Canada and/or be subject to a penalty.
Non-compliant shipments for wood packaging material
Both the shipment and the wood packaging material will be ordered removed from Canada. Under certain conditions, and at the discretion of the CBSA, shipments containing non-compliant wood packaging material may either:
- (a) be deconsolidated or
- (b) have the non-compliant wood packaging material separated from the associated cargo and replaced with compliant wood packaging material
Deconsolidation or separation is never an option when there are live wood-boring pests or signs of live wood-boring pests.
If there is evidence of living pests, the wood packaging material will be treated prior to being ordered removed to limit the risk of pest escape. Even if it has been treated, the shipment must be removed from Canada. The importer, or the person in possession or care and control of the shipment, is responsible for all costs associated with the removal (including treatment, if required) of non-compliant wood packaging material.
- Wood Packaging – Questions and Answers
- Implementation of ISPM 15 for Wood Packaging Moving Between Canada and the United States
- ISPM 15: Regulation of wood packaging material in international trade - PDF (505 kb)
- Lists of Facilities Approved by Foreign National Plant Protection Organizations and recognized by the CFIA under D-98-08
Goods potentially contaminated with soil
Soil is a high risk pathway for foreign pests and diseases that can harm Canadian's economy, environment and natural resources.
All goods found to be contaminated with soil are inadmissible and will be refused entry or ordered removed from Canada.
All motor vehicles entering Canada are subject to inspection to ensure they are clean and free of pest and or soil. Inspections are subject to fees. If the motor vehicle is not adequately cleaned, there will be an additional cost to the importer to obtain the service of a professional motor vehicle cleaning firm.
All costs associated with the removal or treatment is at the expense of the importer or person in care and control of the item(s) at the time of entry into Canada, as per the Plant Protection Act Section 44 and the Health of Animals Act Section 60.
- D-95-26: Phytosanitary requirements for soil and soil-related matter and for items contaminated with soil and soil-related matter
- PI-016: Procedures for inspecting regulated articles for freedom from soil, plants, plant parts and related matter
- TAHD-DSAT-IE-2010-17-1: Import of used equipment and things from designated countries, (that is, not free of disease such as foot-and-mouth disease
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