Fertile invasive grass carp caught in Lake Erie

by Jeff Helsdon | September 2, 2016

fertile grass carp

Although a fertile grass carp, a species of Asian carp, caught in Lake Erie is a cause for concern it shouldn’t be seen as the first wave of an invasion of the giant invasive fish.

A commercial fisherman using a trap net caught the grass carp on August 26, just west of Point Pelee. The fish was 94.5 centimentres in length and weighed 10.1 kilograms. The fish was given to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) that morning. It was then sent on to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for testing and was found to be fertile. It is the first fertile grass carp caught on the Canadian side of Lake Erie.

Following the discovery of the fish, government researchers conducted testing and could not find any other grass carp.

Asked if this means the establishment of the fish is imminent, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry senior media officer Jolanta Kowalski, answered, “No.  After the carp was caught last week MNRF and DFO did several days of intensive surveillance and fishing and found no other carp.”

“While the finding of grass carp in Canadian waters is cause for concern, there is no proof that grass carp have reproduced in Canadian waters and there is no evidence of an established population,” said Hilary Prince, spokesperson for the DFO.

Sarah Chadwick, invasive species communication liaison with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, agreed. “I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the start,” she said. “Asian carp have been caught sporadically in the Great Lakes. Anytime they are caught it’s time for concern.”

Chadwick said it’s important for anglers and boaters to report catching or sighting an Asian carp to the Invasive Species Hotline (1-800-563-7711) or MNRF.

Learn more about how you can identify and report Asian Carp, here.

Three sterile grass carp were found in the Grand River – two in 2013 and one in 2015. At the time, a DFO spokesperson said there were two potential sources for the fish. It was either a person releasing one or a fish escaping from impoundment in an American state, where it is legal to use sterile fish for vegetation control.

There were, however, fertile grass carp caught in Ohio’s Sandusky River, which flows into Lake Erie, in 2012, and six fertile grass carp caught in Lake Ontario last year.

There are four species of Asian carp: grass, silver, black, and bighead. Grass carp don’t jump out of the water at the approach of boats or eat the plankton to disrupt the food chain like other species. The concern is the fish consume large amounts of vegetation which could have ecosystem-wide impacts.

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  1. Kevin Reid wrote: Good story Jeff. it is important for conservationists to understand the difference between Grass Carp and the other three species in the group. Thanks for being clear about the differences. Also, although folks should know that although the Great Lakes states require retail Grass Carp to be sterile, there is a small failure rate in the hatchery process that produces the sterile fish so about 100 per 1,000,000 of these Grass Carp are not sterile. The fish are certified sterile when they leave the hatchery. Also, fertile Grass carp are legal for sale in many other states so it is possible that there is mixing of fertile and sterile Grass Carp after the certified fish have left the hatchery but before they are stocked in ponds and canals to reduce aquatic vegetation.