January 30, 2006

Invasive species makes first appearance in inland Ont lake

Ontario Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay is urging the province's residents to be vigilant and help protect Ontario's lakes and rivers from invasive species following the discovery of the rudd, an invasive fish, for the first time in an inland Ontario lake.

"Invasive species are a very real environmental and economic threat to the Great Lakes, inland lakes and rivers," he said, adding, "The public has a key role to play in protecting our natural environment, and recreational and commercial fisheries from these species."

The rudd was discovered by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) staff during a routine fish community assessment in Lake Wilcox, a small lake in the headwaters of the East Humber River in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto. This fish species was previously known to occur in Ontario only in isolated locations within the St. Lawrence River and the lower Great Lakes.

A European member of the minnow family, the rudd is believed to be spread through dumping of bait buckets. It can cross-breed with the indigenous golden shiner, resulting in hybrid young and a potential loss of the unique genetics of the golden shiner. This invasive fish also disrupts spawning and nursery habitats for other native species and threatens Ontario's aquatic biodiversity.

Measures recommended by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to prevent the spread of the rudd (and other invasive species) include: learning to identify such species (information is available on-line at www.invadingspecies.com); checking bait buckets carefully for invasive or non-bait species before going out on any lake or river; and never releasing baitfish or dumping the contents of bait buckets into a lake or river, frozen or not.

MNR and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters have set up a toll-free Invading Species Hotline, 1-800-563-7711. Specimens of suspected invasive species such as rudd should be frozen and reported to the hotline.

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