As Damage Mounts from Invasive Species, Congress Delays, Prompting Coalition to Endorse Shipping Moratorium in Great Lakes

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   May 23, 2007
Contact:   Chad Lord, National Parks Conservation Association, 202.454.3385
Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, 734.769.3351


As Damage Mounts from Invasive Species, Congress Delays, Prompting Coalition to Endorse Shipping Moratorium in Great Lakes

ANN ARBOR, MI-The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition today is calling for a moratorium of ocean-going ships in the Great Lakes until Congress stops the introduction of aquatic invasive species.

"Our call for a moratorium stems from the fact that the Great Lakes are under attack and Congress has yet to respond,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We have solutions. It is time to use them. Congressional delay is exacerbating the problem and costing citizens more money. It is time for elected officials to pass legislation that will slam the door shut on new invasive species in the Great Lakes."

The call for a moratorium comes as the latest non-native pathogen in the Great Lakes—a deadly fish virus—spreads throughout the region, prompting state legislators in Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Ohio to consider bills to curb introductions of non-native species from ballast water—the No. 1 way invasive species enter the Great Lakes and possible source of VHS introduction.

Those efforts are following the lead of lawmakers in Michigan, whose state statute to stop invasive species introductions went into effect this year, and was recently challenged in court by the shipping industry.

"Congressional inaction has caused the situation to degrade into a regional crisis marked by a lot of frustration and finger pointing, and very little in terms of results,” said Skelding. “Congress can pass comprehensive legislation now to combat invasive species. Until protections are in place, we stand committed to protecting the Great Lakes and its citizens through a moratorium on ocean vessel operation on the lakes and the use of transportation alternatives."

The Coalition also released a letter to key congressional committees outlining the need to pass a bill or bills this year that comprehensively address aquatic invasive species.

"We take this position with all seriousness knowing that a moratorium would likely impact people’s lives,” wrote the Coalition’s co-chairs to congressional leaders. “We also know, however, that allowing ocean-going vessels to continue entering the Great Lakes without requiring them to treat their ballast water leads to more invasions of invasive species and to greater economic and environmental harm of the Great Lakes and U.S. waters."

The Coalition supports passage of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, a comprehensive bill to prevent invasive species introductions, stop sewage contamination, and restore wetlands.

There are 185 invasive species in the Great Lakes. One new non-native species is discovered on average once every 28 weeks. More than 60 percent of all non-native invaders—54 of 85 invaders—discovered in the Great Lakes since the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 are attributable to ballast water discharge from ocean-going vessels.

The Great Lakes have proved an entryway for invasive species to the rest of the country. Recently, one of the most infamous invaders to the Great Lakes—the quagga mussel—was discovered as far West as Lake Mead, Nevada.

"Every year Congress fails to act means another invasion that will destroy the lakes, undermine our economy and way of life, and then spread inland across North America’s freshwater resources,” said Jennifer Nalbone, campaign manager for Great Lakes United, the Healing Our Waters Coalition member which originally called for a moratorium on ocean-vessel access into the region. “It is time to take a stand for the Great Lakes and the nation’s freshwaters, and use available transportation alternatives until Congress provides a national solution to what is clearly a national problem."

Ocean-going vessels have introduced some of the most infamous invasive species including:

  • The zebra mussel, which has decimated the base of the Great Lakes food chain, played a role in the re-emergence of the Lake Erie “Dead Zone” and toxic algae blooms.
  • The round goby, which has decimated small-mouth bass populations.
  • The Eurasian ruffe, which competes with Yellow perch and feeds off eggs of the commercially important Lake Whitefish.

Invasive species foul beaches, harm commercial and recreational fishing, clog power plant and municipal water infrastructure, and disrupt the food chain. Aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes can also cause public health impacts, including harmful algal blooms, deterioration in drinking water quality, and beach closures.

Invasive species cost Great Lakes citizens, businesses and municipalities $5 billion annually in damage and control costs. Nationally, aquatic and terrestrial invasive species cost more than $120 billion annually.

Transportation experts estimate that the United States and Canada would have to spend an additional $55 million jointly to utilize transportation alternatives such as Laker, barge, rail or truck, to move the bulk cargo currently carried by ocean-vessels.

Co-led by the National Wildlife Federation and the National Parks Conservation Association, the Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 90 zoos, aquariums, museums, and hunting, fishing, and environmental organizations representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

For more information, visit: www.healthylakes.org

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