Chesterton Tribune



Great Lakes shipping season begins invasive species risk lingers

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The 60th shipping season on the St. Lawrence Seaway is underway, as the locks on the Welland Canal and in Massena, NY opened for business last week.

Ocean-going vessels will begin transiting the Great Lakes for the next eleven months, carrying cargo and, potentially, aquatic invasive species.

Ocean-going cargo vessels have introduced a number of destructive aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels and round gobies, that have cost the Great Lakes region billions of dollars since the late 1980s. The shipping industry continues to pose the threat of introducing new aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes.

In recent years, two non-native zooplankton were found in Lake Erie. In February, researchers announced the discovery of bloody red shrimp in the Duluth-Superior harbor on Lake Superior. Bloody red shrimp were found in Lakes Michigan and Ontario in 2006 but had not yet been detected in Lake Superior.

To improve balance and stability, ships take in or discharge water in their ballast tanks when cargo is loaded or unloaded. In doing so, they also take in live critters that can pose a serious threat to native species and ecosystems when disharged away from home. Court ordered regulations are in place to require ocean-going ships to treat their ballast water before discharging it.

The shipping industry fights these regulations, pushing for the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act year after year in Congress. The bill would eliminate Clean Water Act authority over ship discharges like ballast water and remove the EPA from its scientific role in deciding standards for protecting waterways across the country. It would exempt ships that operate solely on the Great Lakes and preempt state rules.

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, said Alliance for the Great Lakes Vice President for Policy Molly Flanagan.

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

Members of the Great Lakes Congressional delegation prevented inclusion of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act in the federal omnibus spending bill passed on March 23.


Posted 4/2/2018




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