A new report by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies ponders uniform ballast rules to help keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes. The report comes out on the coattails of a recent study by Notre Dame that found that invasive species cause $200 million in damage annually to the Great Lakes.
The new report by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) urges the U.S. to come to an agreement with Canada in setting uniform rules on regulating ballast water for ships entering the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway. One of the suggestions includes the U.S. adopting the International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules that require ships to flush their ballast tanks with either saltwater or chemicals to kill freshwater species. This would at the very least bring both of the countries a step closer to actually doing something about the rapid influx of invasive species.
The House of Representatives recently passed the Coast Guard Authorization Act which would require ships entering U.S. ports to install technology to kill invasive species in the ballast water. The Senate still needs to pass these standards, though they would only be for the U.S. The recent TRB report focuses on uniform rules so that the U.S and Canada can work together to monitor the problem.
There are currently at least 180 invasive species in the Great Lakes, with a new species being discovered every six months. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently ran a series on the effects of invasive species on Lake Huron and in the wake of the story the Sentinel ran an editorial that recommended closing the St. Lawrence Seaway since the economic benefits are only $55 million, according to a report by the Joyce Foundation. The St. Lawrence Seaway will probably not be closed down anytime soon, but everyone does agree that something must be done soon to stop the damage.
TRB Report: Great Lakes Shipping, Trade, and Aquatic Invasive Species
Sciencedaily Story: Keeping Invasive Species Out Of The Great Lakes