WASHINGTON—Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., today introduced
two bipartisan bills aimed at protecting U.S. waters from the threats posed
by aquatic invasive species. The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act and
the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act would help combat these harmful
species that damage U.S.
aquatic ecosystems and natural resources.
“Invasive species wreak havoc on our waterways and
cost us billions each year,” said Levin, who is a co-chair of the
Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “Because it has proven immeasurably
difficult to fight invasive species once they have entered our waters, these
bills are focused on preventative measures that will tackle the problem at
Details of the two bills follow:
The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act would reauthorize
and strengthen the National Invasive Species Act of 1996 to protect U.S. waters
by preventing new introductions of aquatic invasive species. The legislation,
which Levin is sponsoring along with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would
regulate ballast discharge from commercial vessels; prevent invasive species
introductions from other pathways; support state management plans; screen
live aquatic organisms entering the United States for the first time in
trade; authorize rapid response funds; create education and outreach
programs; conduct research on invasion pathways, and prevention and control
technologies; authorize funds for state and regional grants; and strengthen
specific prevention efforts in the Great Lakes.
“What is so important about the National Aquatic
Invasive Species Act is that it to takes a comprehensive approach toward the
problem of aquatic invasive species rather than just focusing on species
after they are established and a nuisance,” Levin said. “The bill
deals with the prevention of new introductions of species, the screening of
live aquatic organisms imported into the country, the rapid response to new
invasions before they become established, and the research to implement the
provisions of this bill.”
The Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act, which Levin is
sponsoring with Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Sen. Russell Feingold,
D-Wisc., would list three species of Asian carp – the bighead, black
and silver carp – as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act. By doing
so, Congress would prevent the intentional introduction of these species into
the Great Lakes by prohibiting the
interstate transportation or importation of live Asian carp without a permit.
Congress passed the original Lacey Act in 1900 and the Lacey Act Amendments
in 1981, which make it unlawful to import, export, transport, buy or sell
fish, wildlife and plants taken or possessed in violation of federal, state
or tribal law. This legislation would not interfere with existing state
regulations of Asian carp, and permits to transport or purchase live Asian
carp could be issued for scientific, medical or educational purposes.
In addition to Levin, Voinovich and Feingold, other
cosponsors of the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act include Sens. Debbie
Stabenow, D-Mich., Norm Coleman, R-Minn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Barack
Obama, D-Ill., and Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
Aquatic invasive species threaten biodiversity nationwide,
especially in the Great Lakes. The leading
pathway for these aquatic invaders is maritime commerce. In the late 1980s,
zebra mussels were released in the Great Lakes after crossing the Atlantic
Ocean in the ballast tanks of ships from the Mediterranean.
Zebra mussels created such a problem for the Great Lakes that Congress passed
legislation in 1990 and 1996 requiring ballast water management for ships
entering the Great Lakes, which has reduced,
but not eliminated, the threat of new aquatic invasions.
Invasive species are also an economic drain. Estimates of
the annual economic damage caused nationwide by invasive species range as
high as $137 billion. Because the Great Lakes fisheries are valued at $4
billion annually, preventing invasions into the Great Lakes from ballast
water, hulls or the system of canals connecting the Great Lakes to the
Mississippi River and Atlantic Ocean is
critical. Once an exotic species establishes itself, it is almost impossible
to eradicate and usually difficult to prevent from moving throughout the