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Boreal Community Media

Industry fights Great Lakes’ invasive-species protections

Apr 08, 2018 10:19AM ● By Editor
Photo: Alf van Beem

By Lisa Neff, staff writer of The Wisconsin Gazette - April 8, 2018

With the opening March 29 of the 60th shipping season on the St. Lawrence Seaway, oceangoing vessels began transiting the Great Lakes, bringing cargo — and the risk of even more ballast-water invasive species.

Efforts to mitigate that invasive-species risk are being fought by the shipping industry.

Court-ordered regulations require oceangoing ships to treat their ballast water before discharging it. However, according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the shipping industry is fighting the regulations, lobbying Congress for passage of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act— a broad series of measures to gut shipping regulations.

The bill would eliminate Clean Water Act authority over ship discharges — including ballast water — and remove the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to decide standards to protect waterways, including the Great Lakes. The measure also would exempt ships operating solely on the Great Lakes and pre-empt states’ rights to protect their waters.

Said alliance vice president for policy Molly Flanagan: “The shipping industry marks the seaway opening with fanfare and celebration each year. But behind the scenes, industry lobbyists are fighting to weaken regulations intended to protect the Great Lakes from the biological pollution that is invasive species.”

She continued, “Aquatic invasive species cause more than $200 million in economic damage annually to the region and have caused irreparable harm to the Great Lakes.”

Members of the Great Lakes congressional delegation prevented inclusion of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act in the federal omnibus spending bill passed in March. 

However, industry lobbyists continue to push for passage.

Destructive Living Cargo 

Cargo vessels have introduced a number of aquatic invasive species — such as zebra mussels and round gobies — that have cost the region billions of dollars since the late 1980s, according to the alliance.

Two non-native zooplankton — Thermocyclops crassus and Brachionus leydigii — were found in Lake Erie in recent years.

And, in February, researchers announced a bloody red shrimp was found in the Duluth-Superior harbor on Lake Superior.

Bloody red shrimp were brought by ballast tanks into the Great Lakes and were first discovered in 2006 in lakes Michigan and Ontario.

Bloody red shrimp

A bloody red shrimp — an invasive species in the Great Lakes. 

Photo: NOAA

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here