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.
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.
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.