Invasive fish species could threaten B.C. salmon
Published Sunday, August 26, 2012 2:08PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 26, 2012 5:46PM EDT
There are fears salmon in British Columbia could be under threat after an invasive species of fish was spotted in the Fraser River.
The Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO) has issued an alert that Asian carp may be threatening indigenous fish in the area of Lytton and Lillooet, B.C.
The DFO warns that Asian carp will compete for food and prey on the larvae of native fish, while causing significant habitat damage.
The invasive fish can grow to weigh up to 50 kilograms and eat as much as 40 per cent of their body weight each day.
Asian carp is also known to jump at boaters and water skiers if it feels threatened.
“I saw one jump out of the river about fifty feet up and land there,” John Charliem, who works on the Lytton, B.C. cable ferry, told CTV British Columbia. “It looked like a catfish.”
Many in the area are worried that the Asian carp could push out the salmon in the area.
According to the DFO, Asian carp have already become a serious problem in U.S. waterways and threaten to do the same in Canada.
In May, the Canadian government announced new funding of $17.5 million to be allocated over five years to prevent the migration of Asian carp, which have a strong presence in the Mississippi River.
“We are committed to working with our American counterparts to continue to protect the Great Lake basin,” said Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Keith Ashfield. “Together these measures will go a long way toward our ultimate goal of stopping Asian carp from entering and becoming established in the Great Lakes.”
Asian carp were introduced to North America in the 1970s, mainly in the southern U.S. However, flooding resulted in the fish moving beyond their contained environment and into open freshwater systems.
In Canada, Asian carp is imported for the live food fish industry but since 2010 British Columbia has banned the possession and sale of the fish.
A zoologist with the University of British Columbia said that what’s been spotted in the Fraser River could simply be a larger common carp.
"Those are already established in the Fraser River,” said Eric Taylor. “Common carp is not nearly as potentially dangerous as Asian carp in the strict sense. But Blackhead carp, Silver carp, those can grow to large sizes and be very damaging."
If Asian carp is caught, the agency asks that they not be thrown back into the water. Rather, fishers and boaters should note the location and date and contact a DFO office.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Kent Molgat