Barrett testimony highlights risk to Lake Erie

Feb. 4, 2014

NEW ORLEANS – The Great Lakes are too valuable a resource to be put at risk, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett told a committee looking into options to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the Great Lakes Mississippi River Interbasin Study in early January to examine options to keep Asian carp from accessing Lake Michigan through Chicago waterways. It presented eight options, ranging from the status quo of operating an electronic barrier to keep the fish at bay to permanent hydrologic separation between the two basins.

Asian carp feed off tiny aquatic plants and animals at the bottom of the food chain, literally sucking the life out of the body of water. In the Mississippi River, and other areas where Asian carp are established, the fish have replaced native fish species.

Barrett highlighted the potential danger of an invasion directly into Lake Erie via Eagle Marsh. Located near Fort Wayne, Indiana, this marsh allows a bridge between the Maumee River, which flows directly into western Lake Erie in Ohio, and waters from the Mississippi River watershed. A chainlink fence was installed in the marsh to prevent carp from accessing the Maumee River, but that solution is far from permanent.

“Scientific studies have shown Lake Erie has the most favourable conditions for Asian carp and would be impacted the greatest of all the lakes,” Barrett said. “The Great Lakes fishery is worth billions annually. There is much at stake for not only port towns in my riding, but the entire lake.”

One front Barrett has been championing is cutting off a potential Asian carp invasion through live fish brought into Ontario for food. Despite hefty fines, several importers have been charged for attempting to bring live Asian carp into Ontario across the border. The fear is if a truck carrying live fish was involved in a mishap, the fish could access a Great Lakes tributary. Barrett called for allowing only eviscerated (gutted) Asian carp into the province.

“While I have been advocating for allowing only gutted fish into Ontario, I realized while preparing for the New Orleans hearing that interstate transportation of live fish is also a concern. An incident involving a truck with live Asian carp in Ohio, for example, would have the same result as one in Ontario,” Barrett said.

“The concern of interjurisdictional transportation of live fish – and I’m not down here to give advice to people down in the United States – the concern is transportation of live fish for food between a state that has Asian carp and one that does not have Asian carp,” he told the committee.

Barrett concluded his testimony by urging speedy action to deal with the Asian carp threat. The New Orleans hearing was part of the consultation for the GLMRIS study. Barrett made arrangements to testify during a planned vacation in Louisiana.

“The social, economic, political and ecological impacts of this potential invasion are huge,” Barrett said. “I had an opportunity in New Orleans to thank the U.S. Army Corps for their work to date. I ask others to make their views known.”

Barrett as MPP for the provincial riding of Haldimand-Norfolk invited the GLMRIS study group to hold hearings in Ontario – perhaps Toronto or even in his home town of Port Dover on Lake Erie.

Further public hearings have been scheduled in Portage, Indiana on Feb. 11 and Buffalo, New York for Feb. 13. Written submissions are accepted up until March 31, 2014. For more information or to register for one of the hearings, see the GLMRIS web site at


For more information contact
MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or 519-427-7828