Economic Impacts

bighead carp

Economic Impacts

The Great Lakes basin has proven to be an extremely valuable resource to the Canadian economy through several ventures. The basin is directly linked to numerous industries, all of which would be greatly impacted if the ecological state of the lakes were compromised. The Great Lakes contribute $13.8 billion to the Canadian economy every year through commercial, recreational and subsistence fishing, water use, water-based hunting, oil and gas, commercial navigation, recreational boating, beach / lakefront use, and wildlife viewing.

As Bighead and Silver carps continue their persistent movement north through the Mississippi River basin, and Grass Carp threaten Canadian waters from the western basin of Lake Erie, deterring their entry into the Great Lakes is crucial in order to maintain its ecological balance and associated financial value.

The following industries would experience severe economic impacts if Asian carps were to establish in the Great Lakes:

Commercial Fishing

  • The Canadian commercial fishing industry is valued at $230 million (USD)
  • Asian carps would impact commercial fishing by causing a reduction in commercial catches
  • Commercial catches would be reduced due to decreases in native fish population sizes and overall quality as a result of direct competition with Asian carps for food, and destruction of habitat
  • There would also be an increase in operational costs of commercial fishing due to the need to travel farther to catch fish, resulting in decreased profits

Subsistence Fishing

  • Indigenous communities have inhabited the shores of the Great Lakes for generations and have cultivated a unique relationship with the rivers and lakes of the basin
  • Many of these communities engage in fishing activities, often relying on subsistence fisheries for food and cultural purposes
  • The disruption of these fisheries by Asian carps could impact the ability of these communities to sustain their livelihoods and culture, and may result in a loss of Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Recreational Fishing

  • The Canadian recreational fishing industry is valued at $556 million (USD)
  • Asian carps would impact recreational fishing by causing a reduction in populations of popular angling species such as Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Yellow Perch, Muskellunge, Northern Pike, and more
  • Anglers contribute a large amount of money to the economy via fishing licenses, purchasing of fishing equipment and gear, and through tourism
  • Reduced recreational fishing opportunities would have an impact on other businesses and livelihoods that depend on the development of this sector (e.g., bait and tackle shops)


  • Grass Carp, specifically, could have impacts on waterfowl hunting opportunities
  • Grass Carp destroy wetlands that many popular hunting species depend on for food and habitat, which could result in decreased hunting opportunities and a decrease in economic expenditures from these hunting opportunities

Recreational Boating

  • The Canadian recreational boating industry is valued at $2.3 billion (USD)
  • Silver Carp can jump over three meters out of the water and pose a huge threat to boaters by causing injury to passengers, and damage to boats and equipment
  • These impacts could cause an increase in operating and maintenance costs, and a reduction in interest and participation in the industry

Wildlife Viewing

  • The feeding behaviour of Asian carps can lead to reductions in water quality and an increase in potentially dangerous toxins and algal blooms that pose an increased health risk to Great Lakes users while participating in wildlife viewing activities
  • Poor water quality could also reduce suitable habitat for certain species and cause decreased participation in wildlife viewing activities, like birdwatching

Beaches and Lakefront Use

  • The value of Canadian beaches and lakeshores is $235 million (USD)
  • The presence of Asian carps is known to decrease water quality and increase the presence of toxic algal mats along shorelines. These effects can also cause noxious smells that would negatively impact the use of beaches and lakefronts
  • Property values would also decrease as a result of the presence of Asian carps
For a more in-depth look at the socio-economic impacts of Asian carps, check out the following resources: