Asian Carps – OVERVIEW

FOCA believes that everyone in Ontario, particularly those on the ‘front lines’ along the Great Lakes shorelines, should be on the lookout to prevent the spread of Asian Carps, including Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Grass Carp and Black Carp.

Recent Webinar: September 22, 2021 – Protecting our Great Lakes from Asian Carps

Would you be able to identify an Asian Carp if you saw one?  FOCA and our partners at Fisheries and Oceans Canada encourage you to watch this webinar recording, to learn about the threat posed to the Great Lakes by Grass Carp, Silver Carp, Black Carp and Bighead Carp, and also how to ID carp and report sightings.

> Watch and share the recording by clicking here. (online, 1 hour total)

August 25, 2021 – Everyone is invited to participate in FOCA’s new 5-minute survey about Asian Carps – to help us understand what the general public already knows about carp – and one lucky respondent will win the prize: a handy travelling cooler pack from FOCA (on wheels, with ‘suitcase’ handle feature). Take the survey by September 15, 2021 to be included in the random prize draw! Please share this link and information with everyone at your waterfront:

FOCA’s Asian Carps Survey:

Sept.9, 2021 – FOCA is quoted in the article, Lakegoers urged to keep an eye out for invasive carp (

August 2021 – see FOCA’s Terry Rees, featured in this new video release from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with Perspectives on Asian Carp Prevention in Canada: Cottager, discussing the threat they pose to our precious waterways:–ORM

What you can do to prevent spreading these invaders:

One of the most effective ways for members of the public to assist in this vital effort is simply to share this information with your friends, family and colleagues. The more people who appreciate the costs and dangers posed by this potential invasion, the more motivated people will be to take an active part in defending Canadian waterways from the threat.

If you are a boater or a fisher: make sure your activities never offer a free ride to an invasive plant, fish or animal via your boat bilge or your bait buckets. Many public docks offer information to boaters and other travelers about invasive species and specific local concerns, but every individual must be vigilant.

If you are a lake association representative on the “front lines” (i.e., along the Great Lakes shorelines): consider posting signs at public boat launches warning of the dangers of transporting invasive species, and share this article in your next newsletter or e-news, or at local marinas on a notice board.

If you or anyone you know trades in live fishes: either for food, for pets or in aquaculture (pond) management, make sure you and they observe all regulations governing banned species and ask for expert help if there is any question about the identity of a particular fish.

If you think you have found an aquatic invasive species:

  1. Do not return it to the water.
  2. Take photos.
  3. Note the exact location (GPS coordinates), the observation date and identifying features
  4. Report it immediately by phone, using the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters’ Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711, or online through the EddMapS web-based mapping system:

More tips and resources:

carp images (c) Joe Tomelleri – used with permission

  • FOCA has created an infographic to help you identify Asian carps. Click the image at the side to download the full image. (PDF, 2.2 MB) > Need more help identifying invasive carp, compared to established fish species including baitfish? Visit Confused with Carp  from Asian Carp Canada for ID tips.

Please share this information with others, on social media, in your Association newsletters and e-news!

Read the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee’s 2021 Asian Carp Action Plan (download PDF, 170 pages) This extensive document contains a portfolio of high-priority prevention, detection, and control projects developed to support a comprehensive science-based Asian carp management strategy.

April 2021 – as reported by the U.S. National Wildlife Federation, a recent study published by the North American Journal of Fisheries Management models the impacts that Asian carps could have on the food webs of the Great Lakes. Computer modelling predicts impacts of bighead carp on Lake Erie, in particular. Read more online here. (the graph at the side is part of Supporting Information document #3 on the American Fisheries Society posting)

Summer 2020:  A study by Gertzen et al. (2017) showed that Walleye would be one of many native species irreversibly impacted by the establishment of Grass Carp in our waters.

Summer 2020: Did you know Yellow Perch is at risk of being out-competed by the invasive Grass Carp? A study by Gertzen et al. (2017) showed that Yellow Perch populations would experience declines if Grass Carp were to become established.

Summer 2020: Birds are integral to Great Lakes coastal wetland ecosystems. Grass Carp threaten species like the Canvasback and other waterbirds by destroying wetland habitat and competing for aquatic vegetation as a food source. Learn how to identify Grass Carp and report any suspected sightings to or by calling the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711!

Summer 2020 – See FOCA’s Asian carps updates in the 2020 Lake Stewards Newsletter

October 2019 – FOCA’s Executive Director is one of the partners featured in a video, created by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, on the subject of Asian carps and what is being done to prevent their establishment in the Great Lakes. Watch the video here:

What else can you do?

1) Make your own Cottage Action Plan, to help prevent the spread of invasive species in Ontario cottage country.

2) Write a letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of the Environment to request immediate action to stop this invasive fish from entering the Great Lakes. Call on Prime Minister Trudeau to request that the Trump administration ensures that the short term efforts to prevent an invasion do not fail, and to stress that the U.S. must establish permanent ecological separation between the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins. With information from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  and Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

What are invasive carps?

Of the many species known as Asian carp, the Bighead and Silver carp, averaging 3 feet long and weighing 60 pounds, pose the greatest threat to the Great Lakes. They are avid filter feeders and can eat up to 20 percent of their body weight in plankton per day. Plankton is the food that most aquatic species rely on; therefore carp have the potential to displace native fish and other species. The Silver carp are slightly smaller but have been known to cause injury to boaters as they jump out of the water when disturbed.

Get more info and identification tips here:

ROM videoFor more, view a video from the Royal Ontario Museum (click image at left to link to the YouTube video)

Common carp Grass carp from Invading Species AwarenessTips from the Invading Species Awareness Program for identifying grass carp (as opposed to Common carp, which is already established in our waters): Common Carp vs. Grass Carp (click image at right to enlarge)

How did they get here?

The invasive carps were imported into North America in the 1970s to be used in southern United States aquaculture operations. Flooding allowed the fish to escape in to the Mississippi and Illinois rivers in the early 1990s and they have been advancing towards the Great Lakes ever since.

What is being done to protect the Great Lakes?

Almost a decade ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. EPA, the State of Illinois, the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began working together to erect and maintain an underwater electric barrier between the carp and Lake Michigan. There are now 3 electric barriers in the Chicago waterway to assist in protecting Lake Michigan from carp introduction. There has also been a 1,500 foot fish barrier fence installed at Eagle Marsh, near Fort Wayne, Indiana, to block advancement of Asian carp into Lake Erie.

The U.S. Army Corps completed DNA monitoring to identify the location of invasive carp in the Chicago canal and found that they are as close as one mile from the barrier. With support from the Obama administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working on a 4 year study to determine how to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes. The study is under attack by many environmental groups saying that they need to work more urgently to solve the problem.

The Great Lakes St Lawrence Cities Initiative and the Great Lakes Commission have raised funds to go ahead with their own study to come up with a plan to determine how to re-establish the natural separation between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi basin.

What risk do invasive carps pose to Ontario Lakes?

If these invasive carps are able to enter the Great Lakes and establish a population, they will have detrimental effects on commercial and sport fishing industries, recreational boating, and tourism across Ontario. They consume an enormous amount of food that other aquatic species rely on, therefore displacing native fish and other species.

What is Ontario doing?

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has committed $400, 000 towards the development of a risk assessment, coordinated along with the US Great Lakes Fishery Commission. This assessment would identify vulnerable tributaries that are at risk of carp invasion and determine techniques for prevention of the introduction of carp into the Great Lakes.

Also, the Ontario MNR is developing a rapid response plan for the introduction of carp.

Other Resources and Partner Information:

Asian Carp Canada: 

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada:

Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program:

Invasive Species Centre:

Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks:

Other News

February 2020: Millions of federal dollars are missing in Trump’s budget to install barriers to prevent Asian carp (Michigan News)

February 2020: Kentucky Fish and Wildlife trying new method of harvesting Asian carp (WPSD Local 6)

January 2020: US government funding project to prevent grass carp from gaining ground in lakes/Lake Erie (Manitoulin Expositor)

2019: Everything you need to know about the threat of grass carp (Rebecca Schroeder, Invasive Species Centre)

2019: 2019 Asian Carp Action Plan (Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee)

May 2018 – Why Asian carp pose a threat to the Great Lakes (Ohio News-Herald)

February 2018 – Asian Carp Exhibit now open at the Toronto Zoo

October 2, 2017 – genetic tests confirm Grass carp eggs found in the Maumee River, along the U.S. side of western Lake Erie (US Asian Carp response group)

January 30, 2017 – New analysis says it is “very likely” that grass carp will become established in Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan and Ontario within 10 years unless effective steps are taken to stop them: Grass carp have invaded Lakes Erie, Michigan and Ontario: Study (Windsor Star)

January 12, 2017 – The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee’s (ACRCC) announced the release of its Fiscal Year 2017 Action Plan: Water Canada

October 3, 2016 – Great Lakes Fishery Commission and Fisheries and Oceans Canada Host Public Forum on Threat of Asian Carp

August 30, 2016 – Asian Carp caught near Point Pelee found in Lake Erie was fertile: MNRF  (CTV Windsor)

July 15, 2016 – Officials say common carp often mistaken for invasive Asian carp: Sarnia Observer

June 4, 2016 – Asian carp caught for the first time in St. Lawrence River: CBC News

January 26, 2016 – Sound could be the answer to keeping invasive silver carp out of the Great Lakes. A recent study found that it’s a certain kind of sound that could be the key to scaring off unwanted fish. Find out more and listen to a sample of one of the sound files researchers used here.

Jan. 14, 2016 – Conservation experts are worried about the destructive impact Asian carp are likely to have on the Great Lakes ecosystem: Corporate Knights

January 2015 – Asian carp remain a risk to the Great Lakes. View the links below to learn about recent developments:

Jan. 4, 2016 – Asian carp could cause some Lake Erie fish to decline, others to increase: University of Michigan

Dec. 17, 2015 – View past webinars about Asian carp offered by the Invasive Species Centre: Webinar Series

Nov. 18, 2015 – Both juvenile and adult silver and bighead carp are disoriented by CO2, new research shows: UPI News Story

Nov. 9, 2015 – Asian carp caught in Lake Ontario weren’t born locally: CTV News Story

Sept. 29, 2015 – Meet Canada’s Asian carp detective: Toronto Star News Story

Sept. 18, 2015 – Asian carp caught near Point Pelee: CBC News Story

July 29, 2015 – Two live grass carp, considered highly invasive, found in Toronto pond: CBC News story

2014 – The invasive Asian carp are now closer than ever to the last barrier of defence between the infested Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and the Great Lakes. A series of three electric barriers on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is all that keeps the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and it is feared that a heavy rain could flood the Des Plaines River, allowing the carp to breach the barrier. Environmental and conservation groups have been urging the Illinois and Obama administration to take action by closing the shipping locks. This has set into motion a study, by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to be completed over the next 4 years. The Chicago barge and tour boat companies argue that closing the locks would have detrimental effects on their businesses.

Michelle LewinAsian Carps – OVERVIEW