The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, (O.F.A.H.), Ontario’s largest nonprofit, nongovernmental conservation organization, strongly supports the findings contained in the Report of the Commissioner of Economic and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General, tabled in the House of Commons on October 22, 2002.
Invasive species pose one of the most significant threats to the health of Canada’s natural ecosystems, native species and habitats, and costs the Canadian economy billions of dollars each year. In the Great Lakes alone, more than 160 invasive species have been documented, among them zebra mussels and sea lamprey. However, despite the enormous ecological and economic costs, the federal government has repeatedly failed to develop a coherent response to the threat posed by invasive species.
The findings of the Commissioner’s report are disturbing and identified several major gaps in Canada’s response to what has been termed as one of the greatest threats to global biodiversity. The federal government has failed to identify the existing or potential invasive species that threaten Canada’s ecosystems and failed to live up to its international commitments under the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and its own Canadian Biodiversity Strategy. These problems have been exacerbated through a lack of coordination between federal departments that deal with invasive species and the failure to establish a clear governmental lead to establish priorities and identify departmental roles. As a result, no one knows the extent or full effects of invasive species on our aquatic and terrestrial environments.
The Commissioner also focused on the specific problem of aquatic invaders, the lack of effective ship ballast management regulations by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada despite years of opportunity to deal with the problem. Ship ballast is widely considered to be the means of introducing numerous invasive species such as zebra mussels, spiny water flea and the Eurasian ruffe to the Great Lakes and Canadian coastal waters.
The report clearly identified prevention as the best response to invasive species. Although significant human and financial resources are required, it is recognized that these costs are minimal in comparison to the enormous social, economic and ecological impacts of invasive species. This is something that the O.F.A.H. has argued for years, while devoting significant resources to preventing the spread of invasive species, with little financial assistance from the federal government.
The O.F.A.H., the International Joint Commission, (I.J.C.) and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, (G.L.F.C.), have worked in partnership with other levels of government, conservation organizations and NGO’s to raise public awareness of the invasive species and pressure the federal government to honor their long-standing commitment to institute a National Alien Invasive Species program. Without a national action plan to address the increasing threat of invasive species, the future costs to Canada’s environment and economy will be enormous.
For more than a decade, the O.F.A.H. has been educating Canadians on the threat posed by alien invasive species and is prepared to help the federal government in any way possible to fulfill their obligations in order to address this threat.