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E-M:/ Protect the Great Lakes

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

Media Release

March 25, 2004

IJC Calls on Congress to Protect the Great Lakes First

Action Needed to Prevent Ecosystem from Becoming "Invader Zoo"

[Washington, DC] - In a statement provided to a congressional hearing 
today, both the U.S. and Canadian co-chairs of the International Joint 
Commission urged the U.S. Congress to take swift action to protect the 
Great Lakes from the onslaught of aquatic invasive species in ballast 
water.  The hearing followed action by the International Maritime 
Organization (IMO) to adopt an international ballast water convention and 
considered the implications for reauthorization of the National Invasive 
Species Act.

Read the statement 

"Aquatic invaders don't recognize dotted lines on the map.  That means 
policy makers in both the U.S. and Canada must reach across those lines to 
fight back," said Dennis Schornack, Chair of the U.S. Section.  "It also 
means that what we need now is action by this Congress to put the Great 
Lakes first."
"We have learned from over 50 years of experience with the sea lamprey that 
it costs millions of dollars yearly in perpetuity to control these 
invaders.  Once they get into the Great Lakes and establish a beachhead 
they can never be completely eradicated, so they must be stopped before 
they can get in," said the Right Honourable Herb Gray, Chair of the 
Canadian Section.  "Whether they enter through a canal like the lamprey or 
through ballast water like the zebra mussel, prevention must be our first 
             In the statement, the IJC co-chairs explained that action to 
protect the Great Lakes is critically important because the lakes are the 
lifeblood of the ecology and economy of North America's heartland.  Some 
scientists even theorize that invaders are causing a dramatic decline in 
the health of the Lake Erie ecosystem and are a top threat to aquatic 
Over the last two decades virtually all of these invasive species have 
arrived in the Great Lakes by way of ballast water discharged by foreign 
ships when they take on cargo.  The IJC believes these ship borne invaders 
are a source of great risk; therefore setting a standard for ballast water 
treatment must be the central focus of any plans implemented by both the 
U.S. and Canada.
"The day is close at hand when the tally of non-native species in the Great 
Lakes will total 200 invaders," said Schornack.  "The bottom line is that 
these invaders are turning the Great Lakes into a zoo - not an ordinary zoo 
where the animals are safely confined but a zoo where they are unleashed to 
wreak havoc and devastation on the native ecological community."
The Commission also noted that an estimated 15 more invertebrates and fish 
in the Ponto-Caspian region of Eurasia have the special traits that could 
enable them to hopscotch from there to the Baltic to the Great Lakes.  They 
stressed that the uncertainty of how much damage these new invading species 
might wreak upon the ecology and economies of the Great Lakes should drive 
both the U.S. and Canada into action.
"That's why the Commission believes that invasive species are the most 
pressing problem threatening the Great Lakes," said Schornack.  "This is a 
borderless crisis for the Great Lakes.  This committee, this Congress and 
this country should act and it should act now."
             The IJC identified several key steps:
·        Take the scientifically based, biologically protective standard 
advocated by the U.S. and Canada for the ballast water convention and make 
it U.S. law.
·        Allow regions like the Great Lakes that are ready to speed up 
implementation of the standard.
·        Establish an enforcement system to monitor compliance that 
includes sampling.
·        Provide a reference to the IJC to asking it to study the issue and 
make recommendations to harmonize binational policies, rules and regulations.
The Commission statement concluded by noting that through this reference, 
the IJC could recommend to the governments of the U.S. and Canada how and 
when the ballast water discharge standard should be applied and enforced 
for foreign ships entering the Great Lakes.
             The IJC is a binational treaty organization that operates 
under terms of the Boundary Water Treaty of 1909 whose mission is to 
prevent and resolve disputes between the U.S. and Canada with respect to 
our shared boundary waters.   In addition, a reference given by the 
governments of the United States and Canada in the Great Lakes Water 
Quality Agreement asked the IJC to both assess the progress of the nations 
in Great Lakes restoration and to assist them in efforts to achieve the 
goal of restoring the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the 
waters of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem.
The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee and the Water 
Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the House Transportation and 
Infrastructure Committee jointly sponsored the hearing.

Bevacqua                       Washington 
(202) 736-9024
Lengellé                        Ottawa 
(613) 995-2984

Alex J. Sagady & Associates        http://www.sagady.com

Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy,
Evidence Review and Litigation Investigation on Air, Water and
Waste/Community Environmental and Resource Protection
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PO Box 39,  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com

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