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Creating awareness of the need to address the issue of invasive species in Manitoba

Tuesday, May 11, I spoke to a bill put forward by the MLA for Selkirk to make the last full week in April Invasive Species Awareness Week.  It is a measure I support, and was able to make the suggestion of an annual report released that week and what it might contain.  My remarks are below (from Hansard).

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): I thank the member for Selkirk for bringing this forward. I think this is a good idea. Clearly, when we were dealing with zebra mussels, the government wasn't adequately on the alert and looking out for zebra mussels. When we had zebra mussels in Lake Winnipeg identified and in the Red River, there should have been a really fast, major plan to stop the spread of the zebra mussels.
      I spoke in the Legislature at the time about watching the water corridors, the corridor from Lake Winnipeg over to Lake Manitoba, the water corridor up into­–through the Saskatchewan River and up toward The Pas. And yet the government was clearly not adequately thinking about these corridors. It was  not adequately acting to prevent spread along these corridors, where it's not just the water corridor, but you actually have fishermen who use those corridors and travel back and forth.
      So, for instance, on Lake Manitoba, you've got fishermen from Lake St. Martin, right, who will go to Lake Winnipeg and back and forth. And so you have a natural corridor where people travel as well as the water travels. And so those are the sorts of things that we should have been on top of right away. And what we've seen in the years since the zebra mussels arrived is the spread along some of those corridors up toward The Pas and so on.
      And I'm pleased that we have this bill here and that–I'm hopeful that we can pass it and have, from now on, in the end of last week in April, an awareness week focusing on invasive species.
      Now, I would hope that each awareness week, there would be a report, and that report would be on the invasive species and on the invasive species which are threatening to come into Manitoba, like, for instance, the quagga mussels. And for each of these species, whether you have invasive species or invasive species which are threatening to come here, there would be a distribution map of where they are currently so that we know where they are. There would be not just that but some sort of a plan in terms of what's the approach.
      You know, when we're dealing with invasive species, those of us–and there are many–who are not specifically knowledgeable about the individual invasive species, you know, don't know adequately the details of what we should be doing to prevent the spread.
      And so I think that having some sort of a plan associated with each species in terms of what we know at the moment, what we should be doing to prevent quagga mussels coming into this province, what we should be doing to prevent zebra mussels from spreading elsewhere and make sure that, you know, the details of how one should be treating boats, for example, are in there so it can be a reference point for people who are concerned about invasive species. And it can be a reference point that can be passed out as a pamphlet, a report or present on a website so that people can really feel that they've got a grasp in one place of which are the species of concerns, what exactly their status is at the moment and what we should be doing.
      And, likely, when you look at the maps and so on in different parts of the province, it will be different species that you're concerned about for a variety of reasons. And it would be important to have some understanding of the impacts of those species because people should know, you know, why it is not a good thing for this species to be spreading because it has an impact on other species, it has an impact on agriculture, it has an impact on fishing, whatever that may be.
      And, clearly, with that sort of a plan, if we could get that kind of an annual report, then it would make a major difference in our ability to make sure all Manitobans are aware of not only that this is important but exactly what they, as individuals, can do in terms of stopping further spread of invasive species and protecting the wonderful province that we have and our phenomenal environment, and certainly that would be a particularly positive feature that could come out of this resolution, and hopefully it will.
      So, Madam Speaker, you know, those are the words that I wanted to put on the record. I look forward to having this passed–[interjection] Yes. And I look forward as well to being able to have an annual report, hopefully, on invasive species and on species which are threatening to come into here, and it could be, I think, a very positive result coming out of this bill.
      So, thank you, Madam Speaker. I will pass it on to others to continue this debate.


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