The Laurentian Great Lakes are the largest unfrozen reservoir of freshwater on earth, accounting for almost one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. They are vital to the economy of the Great Lakes region and to the quality of life of its residents, providing drinking water for more than 33 million people in Canada and the United States, supplying hydroelectric power, supporting industries, providing waterborne transportation, and offering a variety of recreational opportunities.
Human activities have, however, imposed stresses on the Great Lakes basin’s ecological integrity, and one of these stresses—the introduction of nonindigenous species of animals and plants—is the focus of this report. The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 provided a route into the Great Lakes not only for international maritime trade but also for aquatic invasive species (AIS)1 carried in the ballast water needed by ships to operate safely. Ships’ ballast water is not the only vector by which AIS enter the Great Lakes, but it has accounted for 55 to 70 percent of reported AIS introductions since 1959, including that of the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha).
In this context, the committee, which was convened at the request of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, was charged with identifying and exploring options for the Great Lakes region that would meet two criteria: (a) enhance the potential for global trade in the
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Summary The Laurentian Great Lakes are the largest unfrozen reservoir of freshwater on earth, accounting for almost one-ﬁfth of the world’s fresh surface water. They are vital to the economy of the Great Lakes region and to the quality of life of its residents, providing drinking water for more than 33 million people in Canada and the United States, supplying hydroelectric power, supporting indus- tries, providing waterborne transportation, and offering a variety of recreational opportunities. Human activities have, however, imposed stresses on the Great Lakes basin’s ecological integrity, and one of these stresses—the introduction of nonindigenous species of animals and plants— is the focus of this report. The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 provided a route into the Great Lakes not only for inter- national maritime trade but also for aquatic invasive species (AIS)1 carried in the ballast water needed by ships to operate safely. Ships’ ballast water is not the only vector by which AIS enter the Great Lakes, but it has accounted for 55 to 70 percent of reported AIS introductions since 1959, including that of the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). In this context, the committee, which was convened at the re- quest of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, was charged with iden- tifying and exploring options for the Great Lakes region that would meet two criteria: (a) enhance the potential for global trade in the 1 In accordance with common usage, the term “AIS” is used throughout this report to describe non- indigenous aquatic species. 1
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2 Great Lakes Shipping, Trade, and Aquatic Invasive Species Great Lakes region and (b) eliminate further introductions of AIS into the Great Lakes by vessels transiting the St. Lawrence Seaway. The options recommended by the committee were to be practi- cal and technically feasible, in addition to meeting the two project criteria. Because of the number, diversity, and distribution of vectors and routes by which AIS can enter the Great Lakes, the committee views elimination of all new AIS introductions as virtually impossible. However, shipping through the seaway is easier to control than some other invasion vectors and routes because the geographic chokepoint at the seaway entrance provides a unique opportunity to inspect and control vessels entering the Great Lakes, the number of vessels involved is relatively small (approximately 300 annually), and the shipping industry is already highly regulated. After examining various candidate actions, the committee con- cluded that the only way to eliminate all further AIS introductions into the Great Lakes by vessels transiting the seaway would be to close the waterway to all vessel traffic. Such action would, how- ever, be incompatible with efforts to enhance the Great Lakes re- gion’s potential for global trade. It also appears impractical from a political perspective. Thus, the committee’s task became one of identifying compromise actions that would reduce—but not eliminate—further ship-vectored AIS introductions into the Great Lakes. Two very different alternatives were identiﬁed: (a) use ballast water management technologies (ballast water exchange, saltwater ﬂushing, and ballast water treatment) to kill or remove organisms in ships’ ballast water or (b) close the seaway to the “riskiest” com- ponent of trafﬁc from an AIS perspective, namely, transoceanic vessels engaged in trade with countries outside of Canada and the United States. Although closing the seaway to transoceanic shipping would reduce substantially the risk of AIS introductions by vessels using the waterway, this action could not, in the committee’s judgment, be implemented in a timely fashion. Moreover, economic princi- ples indicate that eliminating a transportation option would in- crease the cost of moving goods and therefore would not enhance
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Summary 3 trade. Other disadvantages could include adverse environmental impacts associated with alternative transportation modes and routes and reprisals by trading partners of the United States and Canada. In contrast, mandatory use of ballast water management technolo- gies by all categories of vessel known to pose a risk could lead to a marked reduction in AIS introductions by vessels using the seaway and could be implemented almost immediately. In the committee’s judgment, such a measure would achieve a high level of protection against further ship-vectored AIS introductions without the dis- advantages of closing the seaway to transoceanic shipping, if it was supported by effective procedures for vessel monitoring and for enforcing ballast water management regulations and by an AIS surveillance and control program for the Great Lakes. The committee recommends, therefore, that access to the Great Lakes through the seaway be restricted to vessels taking protective measures aimed at ensuring that they do not harbor living aquatic organisms. Such measures should form the core of a compre- hensive technology-based AIS control program incorporating the following features: • A uniform set of effective and enforceable standards for the Great Lakes; • Monitoring for compliance with the standards, strict enforce- ment mechanisms, and remediation options for arriving vessels that do not immediately meet standards for entry; • Surveillance of the Great Lakes ecosystem for early detection of new AIS from any source; • Rapid response capability for containment, control, and possi- ble subsequent eradication following the discovery of any new AIS; and • Feedback mechanisms to update and improve the control pro- gram over time. The committee recommends nine actions necessary to imple- ment the proposed control program. In the committee’s view, many of these actions could be implemented within the next 2 to 3 years if Canada and the United States have the necessary political
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4 Great Lakes Shipping, Trade, and Aquatic Invasive Species will. To establish a solid foundation for the control program, the following four actions should be taken as a matter of urgency. Transport Canada and the U.S. Coast Guard should ensure that all vessels entering the Great Lakes after operating in coastal areas of eastern North America take protective measures similar to those required for transoceanic vessels, notably ballast water exchange for ballasted vessels and salt- water ﬂushing for vessels declaring no ballast on board.2 The United States should follow Canada’s lead and take im- mediate action to adopt and implement ballast water ex- change and performance standards for the Great Lakes that are identical to those speciﬁed in the International Maritime Organization’s International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments. A binational science-based surveillance program should be established to monitor for the presence of new AIS in the Great Lakes. The program should involve dedicated lake teams, as well as academic researchers, resource managers, and local citizens groups, and should leverage existing monitoring activities wherever possible. An adaptive process should be established to ensure that pol- icy measures designed to prevent further AIS introductions into the Great Lakes are updated in a timely and periodic fashion to reﬂect practical experience and knowledge gained through research. The organization responsible for this process should have a binational mandate; adequate re- sources to conduct its work; and the ability to draw on the ad- vice of scientiﬁc and policy experts in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere as needed. It should also be widely per- ceived as independent and free from conﬂicts of interest. 2 For the purposes of the present report, coastal vessels are deﬁned as those that operate within the exclusive economic zone (i.e., not more than 200 nautical miles from shore) before entering the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway system.
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Summary 5 The requirement to eliminate further AIS introductions is ab- solute and narrow and addresses one invasion vector and route (shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway). In contrast, the require- ment to enhance the potential for global trade is a broad mandate without speciﬁc directives. A region’s potential for global trade is inﬂuenced by a multitude of forces, both within the region and outside it. Although the committee received and examined many suggestions, it has not recommended any actions aimed solely at enhancing the Great Lakes region’s potential for global trade. It noted, however, that the development of efﬁcient transportation infrastructure and services is one of many strategies for stimulat- ing economic growth and ensuing trade. Uncertainty about future ballast water management regulations for the Great Lakes may well be hindering investment in the transportation system. Thus, timely implementation of the committee’s recommendations with regard to ballast water management and associated standards could help reduce regulatory uncertainties and the associated barrier to the development of trade-enhancing transportation infrastructure and services. In the committee’s judgment, the recommended suite of actions comes closer to achieving the two project criteria than any other options it identiﬁed.
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