Nathaniel Johnson from St. Catharines Standard Reports: Grass carp could have a massive effect on commercial and recreational fishing, hunting, recreational boating, beaches and wildlife viewing on the Great Lakes, industries that generate some $13 billion annually in Canada and the U.S., according to a report released last week.
The Socio-Economic Risk Assessment of the Presence of Grass Carp in the Great Lakes Basin report was written by Fisheries and Oceans Canada economic adviser Salim Hayder and laid out the risk posed by the invasive species.
“The risk assessment is the most important part of the study … the socio-economic impacts are tied to the ecological impact,” he said.
Grass carp, one of four species of Asian carp, has the potential to disrupt the Great Lakes ecosystem and economy unless their spread is stopped.
Hayder’s report looks at the lakes starting in 2023, showing the impact 10 and 40 years out from that date if grass carp become an established species. It used a baseline of 2014 for economic figures and used the U.S. dollar.
“Commercial fishing in a significant employer … and important economically,” said Hayder in a webinar hosted by the federal agency.
In Canada, the industry generates $230 million a year, while in the U.S. it generates $145 million. Looking 10 years out, the industry in Canada alone could take a $244 million hit, while in the U.S., it would take a $102-million hit. Jump ahead 40 years, and the industry in Canada would see a $1.3-billion effect and in the U.S. it would be $663 million.
With Lake Erie being the shallowest of the lakes, the impact of grass carp would be higher. The commercial industry in 10 years would see a $143-million hit and $711-million hit in 40 years.
“Operational costs would increase as commercial fisherman would have to travel further to remote sites to catch fish, reducing the profit by the harvesters,” said Hayder.
All sectors associated with commercial fishing would be impacted as the grass carp compete with native species for food and push them out, he said.
Marc Gaden, Great Lakes Fishery Commission communications director and legislative liaison, said the invasive species do pose a risk to fish stocks on the lakes and the economic value of the fisheries.
The fishery commission facilitates cross-border cooperation that ensures the U.S. and Canada work together to improve and perpetuate the fishery.
Gaden said people only need to look at sea lampreys, a destructive invasive species, to see the impact and preventing grass carp from establishing themselves in the lakes is critical.
“If you have the opportunity to prevent entry in the first place, you should do so,” Gaden said, adding the eight states, one province, First Nations and American tribes around the lakes need to work together on the issue.
Seventy-five First Nations communities in Canada and 27 federally-recognized tribes in the U.S. would feel the impact on subsistence harvests including fishing, hunting, the gathering of wild rice and agriculture.
Hayder also spoke about both recreational fishing and boating in Canada and the U.S., with fishing bringing in $471 million in Canada and $2 billion in the U.S. annually. In 10 years, recreational fishing in Canada would see a $293-million impact and that would increase to $2.26 billion in 40 years. The U.S. industry would see a $1.6-billion impact in 10 years, increasing to $9.9 billion in 40 years.
Hayder’s report, released with support from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, also looked at the impact grass carp would have on hunting, mainly in the U.S. as there were no Canadian figures available, wildlife viewing and beach/lakefront use.
With the species used to manage aquatic plants, they could alter water transparency and disturb sediment. Green algae could increase, posing increased health risks and decreased recreational water use.
Shorelines and banks could be disturbed, causing erosion and increased turbidity in the water. Unique ecosystems and species along the lakes’ shorelines could be lost, Hayder said in the presentation.
“There may be low to moderate impact on ecosystem services … in 10 years starting in 2023 and extreme impact in 40 years,” Hayder said.
Gaden said policy and decision makers, fishery managers, stakeholders and more need good information like that presented by Hayder in his report.